San Antonio City Council authorizes eminent domain takeover of Moses Rose’s, will try negotiating first

Downtown bar lies in the footprint of planned Alamo Visitor Center & Museum

SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio could very well come and take it.

The San Antonio City Council on Thursday morning voted 9-2 to authorize the use of eminent domain to acquire Moses Rose’s Hideout on East Houston Street, which sits in the footprint of a planned Alamo Visitor Center and Museum.

However, before the city employs its power to condemn the property on behalf of the Texas General Land Office, it plans to assist in negotiating with the bar’s owner, Vince Cantu.

But Cantu has no faith in that process.

“They want to negotiate with me, but they wanted a loaded gun to do it,” Cantu told reporters after the vote.

The eminent domain proposal came after the Alamo Trust - the city and GLO’s partner in the plan to redesign Alamo Plaza - said Cantu rejected multiple offers to buy his property, including a $3.5 million offer in December. An appraisal put the current property value at $2.1 million currently and $2.8 million in 10 years, according to the Trust.

Cantu told city council members that there hadn’t been an attempt at honest negotiations, which Alamo Trust Executive Director Kate Rogers refuted.

“At any point in the last two years, if Mr. Cantu legitimately wanted to come to the table and have a productive discussion, that could have occurred, but it hasn’t,” she said.

The price Cantu had previously put out, $17 million, was a “happy price” that he has said was based on $10 million for the property, $5 million for the business, and $1 million for each year he and his wife “had to live under the stress of looming eminent domain.”

During the council meeting, Cantu shouted from the audience that he would start at $8 million.

Looking at the appraised value of the property isn’t enough, he says. He’s 60 years-old, and it would be hard to find a new job. The bar also represents generational wealth for his family, Cantu says.

“We’re walking away from a River Walk property, an Alamo property that would be in our family for generations,” Cantu said after the vote.

Cantu had asked for a two-week delay to the eminent domain authorization, but a motion to do that failed 4-7.

“Two weeks of no additional motivation, I don’t think is going to solve the issue,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

“My hope is that with this action of authorizing the use of eminent domain, that that will accelerate the efforts for folks to get a deal done.”

The visitor center is central to a $400 million plan to redesign Alamo Plaza that the city, the GLO, and the Alamo Trust have been working on since 2015.

Without acquiring the building, the Alamo Trust Board of Directors said in a letter to city council that the project would have to abandon a 4D theater, a recreation of the Woolworth Lunch Counter, and designs for the civil rights exhibit. It would also mean an estimated $1.7 million loss of revenue and long-term sustainability for the Alamo by 2029.

District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez and District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo voted against the eminent domain authorization.

About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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