Signage issue impacting one-of-a-kind River Walk business

by Gaige DavilaFebruary 19, 2019
Tambi Heines, owner of Drip IV Lounge, 1020 Navarro St., removes an IV from customer Vada Akery. BEN OLIVO | HERON

A new River Walk business is serving a different kind of cocktail—one through intravenous injection.

That's if you can find it.

Since Drip IV Lounge opened on Jan. 14, owner Tambi Heines has had difficulty advertising her business, an IV hydration service that's located in a three-story building at 1020 Navarro St. Last month, Heines had neon signs installed in street-level windows that loom over this quiet stretch of the River Walk. And on opening day, she turned them on.

Tambi Heines opened Drip IV Lounge, 1020 Navarro St., an IV hydration service, in January. BEN OLIVO | HERON

The same day, she received a notice from the city, called a "stop work order," telling her that the four neon signs and two metal signs—one fastened to the side of the building's limestone wall at river level and another that hung from the rooftop terrace—were installed without a certificate of appropriateness, an approval issued by the Historic Design and Review Commission for modifications made within historic districts or river improvement overlay (RIO) districts. Then, workers with the City Center Development and Operations (CCDO) department arrived by boat and removed the metal sign fastened to the wall, mistaking the building to be city property, CCDO spokesperson Kelly Saunders said.

According to RIO district guidelines (Sec. 35-678), the city can issue a stop-work order notice to remove signage. And if it isn't removed, the city can sue owner of the business or property—however, there is no mention in the statute of the city being authorized to remove a sign. The staff returned the wrenched sign when they realized their mistake, Saunders said, and have been "advised on proper sign removal going forward."

Recently, the HDRC decided to deny Heines' request for the River Walk-level sign because there is no entrance from the River Walk to Drop IV Lounge, said Ximena Copa-Wiggins, a spokeswoman for the city's Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), which makes recommendations to the HDRC on such matters.

For now, Heines has one sign, which hangs above the business' only entrance on Navarro Street.

The neon signs, which read "Drip IV Lounge" (with a martini glass in place of the "V"), "Oxygen Bar," "IV Hydration," and "Hangover Recovery—Get a Drip," have been turned off since opening day.

"I don't want to be non-compliant; that's not my way," Heines said. "I went through too much to open this (business)."

A case comment on OHP's review of the Heines' HDRC application said that neon signs are prohibited in RIO districts. However, some River Walk businesses, especially in the horseshoe bend, advertise using neon signs. RIO guidelines allow neon signs when they are an "integral architectural element or artwork appropriate to the site" (Sec. 35-678). Some of the more iconic neon signs of River Walk establishments, such as for restaurants Casa Rio and Landry's Seafood House, face the street.

OHP Spokeswoman Ximena Copa-Wiggins explained signs that directly face the River Walk fall under a different RIO guideline (Sec. 35-681) which prohibits neon signage on buildings that abut the river and face the water.


Drip IV Lounge overlooks the River Walk. BEN OLIVO | HERON

New to downtown

IV hydration is when sterile water solutions, containing small amounts of salt, sugar and vitamins, are injected into the vein. An IV hydration lounge, Heines described, takes the "clinical look" out of receiving IVs.

"IV's are nothing new (it's) just how we're delivering it is a little different," she said. Dr. Shahbaz Yazdani is the medical director for the site, while Heines, who's also a registered nurse, runs the business.

The three-story building—a former condo with a rooftop deck, balcony and basement (known as the "wine cellar")—has velvet couches and ottomans and zebra-print carpet. An oxygen bar overlooks the River Walk and Navarro Street on the main floor, where clients can inhale scented oxygen from a nasal cannula, an additional service that reduces stress.

The lounge's hangover cure is called "The Bloody Mary" ($149), an IV "cocktail" with D5W (five percent dextrose in a water solution) infused with B-12, Gluthiatimine, Vitamin C, Toradol and Zofran. The Banana Pina Colada ($179) is a concoction of D5W infused with B-12, B Complex, Glutathione, Vitamin C and Toradol, which is marketed toward athletes for before or after endurance events.

Heines wants tourists and locals alike to use the service, so people can receive rehydration outside of emergency rooms or doctor offices. Since opening, she's had to turn away people who have fallen on scooters, people with swollen lymph nodes, and people with extremely high blood pressure, and instead has directed them to doctors or hospitals, she said. Though people can be referred by their physician for the service, Drip IV Lounge does not take health insurance for its services.

Heines stressed the lounge is a luxury service: the IV's don't cure severe ailments, but remedy issues relating to dehydration. Ideally, she said, the service will be used by athletes or people preparing for a night out in downtown San Antonio, or who are recovering from a hangover.

All clients go through a "medical triage," or an examination to determine an appropriate IV treatment, or if a client can receive treatment at all.

Drip IV Lounge is one of 14 brick-and-mortar IV lounges open in the city and the first downtown.


The neon signs of Drip IV Lounge, 1020 Navarro St., were turned on opening day, but they've been dark since. COURTESY PHOTO

Signless on the River Walk

Heines said she didn't know she had to apply for a certificate of appropriateness for her signs, or that her business was in one of six RIO districts. When she received her certificate of occupancy from the city, she assumed she could open her business. She discovered her signs had violated the RIO guidelines only when she received the stop-work order on her door.

Heines is from San Antonio, but recently moved back from living in Key West, Florida. She said she wanted to start her business on the River Walk because of its night-life activity, and she also wanted to stay close to her grandchildren in Texas.

Heines says she's seeing steady business from referrals, but she wants to attract potential clients from the River Walk.

"I don't have any signage on the River Walk, so it blocks that piece of commerce," Heines said.

Down the river, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts' outdoor digital sign has its own guidelines (Sec. 35-678) that states it can only be used during ticketed events at the center, it can't run advertisements, and that is shall automatically adjust its brightness depending on the time of day.

Last week, Heines received a certificate of appropriateness for her sign in front of Drip IV Lounge, but the sign on the River Walk—the one the city removed—were denied, because Drip IV Lounge does not have an River Walk entrance. Heines can appeal to the HDRC, after paying $600. If she loses the appeal, she can't appeal again for another year.

Heines wishes the city would provide a checklist to businesses opening in historic areas, citing difficulty she's had with the city in understanding the necessary permits she needs to open her business.

"It's not helpful, and it puts businesses behind the 8-ball because then they can't get their signs up," she said.

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | | @gaigedavila on Twitter

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