IssuesLocal NewsSan Antonio City Council Votes to Enact Eminent Domain on Local Bar for Alamo Museum Expansion

An Alamo-themed bar will be forced to the negotiating table against the Alamo museum in a case of eminent domain.
February 13, 2023
The Texas ethos of “Come and Take It” will take on a whole new meaning after the San Antonio City Council voted in favor of using eminent domain against a local bar owner. 

The Alamo-themed Moses Rose’s Hideout bar has been owned and operated by Vince Cantu for the past 12 years. For the last six, he has been embroiled in a standoff with the city and the Alamo museum over planned expansions.

In October 2015, the city council inked an agreement with the Texas General Land Office (GLO), the Alamo Endowment Board, and the City of San Antonio to create the Joint Master Plan for the Alamo Historic District and the Alamo Complex. 

Plans were finalized in 2017 when the city council unanimously approved the Alamo Master Plan.

Thus began the negotiation deadlock that ensued between Cantu and the GLO over his property.

The Texan Tumbler

Over the course of the next six years, Cantu received a variety of offers, but rejected all of them; he has said he wants $17 million for his property. 

The Trust and Land Office hired an appraiser, who determined the value at $2.1 million and estimated it would hit $2.8 million in 10 years. The trust made the final offer in December 2022 of $3.5 million.

Cantu again rejected that offer. 

What makes his property so valuable for the $400 million Alamo expansion was its location within the plans, as his bar would be the spot for a new $150 million Alamo Museum Visitor Center.

The features of the expansion that include Cantu’s property are a vital point to construction.

In a report from the San Antonio Express-News, the Alamo Trust said that if they can not carry out the expansion to that location, then it “will no longer be a financially sustainable operation and will require city/state support on an annual basis.”

On January 30, the city council voted 9 to 2 to exercise the ability to enact eminent domain.  This means if negotiations fail, the government may condemn the property. 

After the vote to approve the use of eminent domain, Cantu told reporters, “They want to negotiate with me, but they wanted a loaded gun to do it.”

Condemnation is the government taking formal proceedings in an attempt to enact eminent domain. 

Once the condemnation process begins, eminent domain proceedings begin. Special commissioners are appointed to consider the evidence of the property’s market value during the trial negotiation process.

Both the landowner and the condemning authority will have an opportunity to hire appraisers to bring as evidence in the case. 

The history of eminent domain traces back to the U.S. Constitution in 1787, where in the Fifth Amendment includes the clause “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

In cases like Berman v. Parker in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of “public use” and instated the constitutional definition of “urban renewal.” That gave governments the ability to redefine the types of properties that could be condemned for development. 

The further expansion of eminent domain in 2005 occurred when the Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London expanded the definition of “public use” to allow condemnation of land by a private developer, because the court determined it would increase the public benefit by improving the city’s tax base and providing jobs. 

Many members of the U.S. House of Representatives saw this decision as overreaching, and in 2012 passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act in order to “protect private property owners and communities from eminent domain abuse, and restore property rights that the Supreme Court changed.”

Texas has instituted a number of similar laws, including a Landowners Bill of Rights, which includes statements about what an entity and landowner can do in a case of eminent domain and provides information on the procedure and obligations of the entity and property owner during condemnation proceedings. 

The Texas Legislature established new laws related to eminent domain in 2021, which made significant additions to understanding the rights and obligations of property owners and entities involved in condemnation proceedings. 

The generally understood definition of public goods for “public use” are utilities that the public benefits from, no single individual pays for, and is a use of core government functions.

In the case of Cantu and the Texas Trust, the issue of the new Alamo expansion for hosting “exhibition space” and the Phil Collins Collection could bring the understanding of “public use” for public benefit into question.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled a name in the case Kelo v. City of New London. We regret the error.


Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Cameron Abrams

Cameron Abrams is a reporter for The Texan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Tabor College and a Master’s Degree from University of the Pacific, Cameron is finishing his doctoral studies where his research focuses on the postmodern philosophical influences in education. In his free time, you will find him listening to a podcast while training for an endurance running event.