North Texas Daily

I-35 expansion leads to closing of Dani Rae’s

I-35 expansion leads to closing of Dani Rae’s

June 09
20:55 2017

Alexander Willis | Staff Writer

After eight years, Dani Rae’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, a Cajun restaurant located off Interstate 35 and Loop 288, closed indefinitely. The expansion of I-35 is thought to be the cause.

Jan Beavers owned the restaurant along with her husband, and said the decision to close up shop was mostly out of their control.

“Our landlord decided not to renew our lease,” Beavers said. “We tried to find an alternate location. Rent’s a lot higher now.”

Beavers said her family probably would not stay in the restaurant business, but added they haven’t figured out what they will do next.

Half of the parking lot space designated to the restaurant had already been sold in relation to I-35’s expansion, a key factor in the landlord’s decision not to renew the lease.

Labeled the “35Express Project,” the expansion of I-35 has yet to affect businesses surrounding what was once Dani Rae’s. A representative of Flexshield, a business directly next to Dani Rae’s, said the expansion hasn’t negatively affected its business.

I-35 first opened in June 1959, and is the ninth-longest interstate highway in the United States, stretching from the border town of Laredo, Texas, all the way to Duluth, Minnesota, and has seen many renovations over the years.

Construction on I-35 begin in Fall 2013 and has faced its share of setbacks. The project was supposed to be completed in the summer of 2017, according to 35Express Project spokesperson Kimberly Sims – though it appears that won’t be happening.

Where customers and tables use to be, now are rows and stacks of inventory, dishes, and other items used at Dani Rae’s Gulf Coast Kitchen in Denton, TX. The singular restaurant closed its doors on May 28, and is getting ready to sell a lot of their inventory at auction. Katie Jenkins

One troubling aspect of I-35’s expansion are cases of fraud committed by real estate investors in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Kevin Bollman, 49, plead guilty in May to committing fraud, where he allegedly bought properties located off of I-35 based on receiving inside information from the Texas Department of Transportation, which revealed the state would soon buy properties for the purpose of I-35’s expansion. Properties are purchased at inflated prices by the state when development plans are compromised, which Bollman falsely claimed to be the case to the Texas Department of Transportation, according to prosecutors.

Bollman’s business partner, Wade Blackburn, 34, plead guilty in April to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in relation to I-35’s expansion.

Currently, no evidence has been discovered connecting Dani Rae’s closing to any malpractice.

A popular eatery in Denton, the restaurant received consistently good reviews online and good word of mouth.

“I thought it was a pretty cool place honestly,” UNT graduate student Dennis Taylot said. “You just don’t get a whole lot of Cajun fish places around here. They had a pretty cheap po’ boy and pretty cheap beer. That’s all I really needed,”

Others, however, were less enthralled with the restaurant.

“It had fried alligator, which is okay, but it was expensive,” UNT alumni Davis Kouk said. “The place wasn’t that special.”

Dani Rae’s was named after Beaver’s two daughters, Dani and Rae. Dani often managed the restaurant, while Rae is furthering her education in Austin, Texas.

“I pretty much ran operations [there],” Dani said.

With the restaurant closed, Dani now plans on getting her master’s in biology from UNT.

Despite this, Dani anticipates one day getting back into the restaurant business.

“Once you’re in that industry, it’s really hard to get out,” Dani said.

Featured Image: At Dani Rae’s Cajun restaurant in Denton, TX, the staff write their thanks to customers on the business’s windows. The restaurant announced they would be closing a week before their last day of operations, May 28, catching many customers by surprise. Katie Jenkins

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