San Antonio bar owner fights back against threat of eminent domain

According to the city attorney’s statement, the construction is planned to start June 2023 and will be completed in 2026.

Another battle is taking place on the grounds of the Alamo, but this one is between a local bar owner and the government.

“Here comes the government again, trying to take property on the very site where we fought for Texas liberty and freedom. Why? So they can build a theater,” Vince Cantu said.

Just a stone’s throw from the Alamo, Vince Cantu opened Moses Rose’s Hideout 12 years ago after buying the building.

He comes from a family of downtown business owners.

“My great-grandfather had the Victory Tavern on Flores Street 100 years ago and ran it for a while,” Cantu said.

Cantu hoped to pass along this building to his kids to keep the legacy alive. Now because of the planned Alamo Visitor Center and Museum, he might not have the chance.

“I’m on the grounds of the Alamo and now the government wants to take it away from me after I built it up,” Cantu said.

Alamo Trust Inc., the nonprofit that manages operations and staff at the Alamo, sent a graphic that shows how Moses Rose’s will impact their planned visitor center and museum.

They state by not acquiring Cantu’s property, the visitor center will no longer be a financially sustainable operation and will require city/state support on an annual basis.

A timeline provided by ATI shows appraisals and purchase offers for the business.

In March 2020, Cantu said he’d be willing to sell his building for $16 million the following year.

Cantu said his original asking price was $15 million, a number he got factoring in how much profit his bar could make over 10 years.

“We would take $10 million for the property and $5 million for the business, and I never heard back from them,” Cantu said.

In July 2020, the Texas General Land Office, which operates the Alamo, offered Cantu $2 million for the property, which was its appraised value.

Cantu rejected the offer.

Between April 2022 and December of that same year, the GLO made two other offers to buy the property for $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

“As long as you can pay me enough to where I’m a 60-year-old man, I’m not going to go find another job anywhere. You pay me enough to where I can retire and not have to worry about it anymore, then great. Otherwise, leave me alone,” Cantu said.

He said the GLO and ATI never came to the table to negotiate with him.

“After years of planning and community input, construction of The Alamo Visitor Center and Museum is scheduled to commence in June 2023, fulfilling a promise to the State of Texas and the City of San Antonio. Throughout the process, Alamo Trust, Inc. and the Texas General Land Office have negotiated in good faith with businesses occupying the surrounding area required for the Alamo Plan to move forward, and in every instance but one, we have reached mutually agreeable terms with their owners. Despite multiple attempts to purchase the property at 516 East Houston Street, the owner of the property, Mr. Vince Cantu, has refused our offers and has not come to the table to negotiate in good faith. Having reached an impasse with Mr. Cantu, we have no choice but to urge the City of San Antonio City Council to explore the option to acquire his property so the Alamo Visitor Center and Museum can move forward without unnecessary delay.”

Alamo Trust Inc.

KSAT 12 News reached out to Cantu’s city council person Mario Bravo, whose office directed us to the City Attorney’s Office.

On Thursday City Council will consider authorizing the City, on behalf of the Government Land Office, to begin the acquisition of property located at 516 East Houston Street, which is the site of the business known as Moses Roses. The authority provides for the acquisition by either negotiating a purchase price with the property owner or condemnation if necessary. The property will be part of the Alamo Visitor Center and Museum. The construction is planned to begin in June 2023 with planned completion in 2026.

City Attorney's Office

“There’s fear involved when the government comes in trying to take something from you that you, that you have, that you think is, you’re in Texas and you believe that your private property is, is your sanctuary,” Cantu said.

Cantu is now asking for $17 million for Moses Rose’s Hideout. He said he’ll keep adding $1 million more every year that he is threatened with eminent domain.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.