By MOLLIE FINCH BELT
The Dallas Examiner
James Price, known for his ownership of bars and clubs in Dallas, has managed to survive during the pandemic and grow his business. He has opened an upscale Steakhouse, DJ’s Steakhouse on Midway Road in Addison. The restaurant is named for his wife Deanna and him.
The first case of COVID-19 in Dallas County was reported in March 2020, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services. The rapid spread of the virus in Dallas County lead to a shutdown of businesses by County Judge Clay Jenkins, except essential businesses.
According to ReferenceUSA, African Americans operate 1,806 of 77,067 businesses in the city of Dallas. This comprises 2.34% of the businesses in the city of Dallas. The New York Fed reports that nearly half of Black businesses had ben wiped out by the end of April as the pandemic ravaged minority communities disproportionately.
Price went into the restaurant business 22 years ago when he acquired a small restaurant in South Dallas, formerly Clara’s Kitchen, and named it South Dallas Café. Garcia Williams, chef in the kitchens in his clubs, convinced him to go into the restaurant business. He has been in the restaurant business since then.
“Even though we were successful at South Dallas Café, now located in Oak Cliff where we serve comfort food, my career goal has always been to own a high-end steakhouse.” Price explained, “My wife and I would go to nice steakhouses, but they did not serve the kind of food we liked nor drinks we liked. They did not cater to what Blacks like.”
For two years, he has owned Vennetti’s around the corner where they serve food and have live music on Friday nights. He said people had been asking him to come North. When the location on Midway became available and he was able to acquire it in January 2020. It had originally been JAXX Steakhouse; so it had the look and feel of a steakhouse and a history around the city as a good steakhouse.
They refinished the kitchen and décor with plans to open in April. However, that was in the middle of a pandemic, so opening was delayed until this month. Price did a lot of the work himself, not enthusiastic about a lot of people coming in to do work during the pandemic.
“Addison was been great for us. It is not too far from Dallas and is accessible to northern cities like Plano and Richardson,” he said.
They can only have 85 people at a time in the restaurant due to the 50% capacity rule for restaurants.
He has applied to the city for a permit to have a patio in the front, which will probably take about eight weeks and will allow them to serve more people at a time.
They have taken steps so that people feel safe to dine at DJ’s.
Reservations must be made to dine in and temperatures are taken at the door.
The signature dish will be a chicken breast served over pasta. They have been working hard to perfect the dish. The chickens come from a special farm and are supper tender. The steaks will be good too and they will all be flame kissed.
In the spring he plans to start a brunch. Originally, the brunch was going to be during football season but he had to reschedule it.
“Many Black businesses are struggling to survive,” Price said.
He said his businesses did not get any help, and like most Black businesses, they have been on their own. Money was available for payroll, but businesses needed money for lights, water and operational expenses.
It’s been “only by the grace of God were they able to keep going,” he expressed.
Moreover, he said his people did not come back to work after the shut-in. At first, he attributed it to the large unemployment checks they received, however now that the amount of Federal funds has been reduced, they still have not come back and the restaurant is still shorthanded.
Missing frontline employees have been a growing trend across the nation due to the uncertainty of COVID, according to labor advocates and unions.
On Sunday, he had to get in the kitchen and fry chicken.
Price attributes his success as a businessman to the fact that he is a hands-on person. He learned the business one step at a time from being there and getting involved. Which meant, he also had to learn the tax part of the business.
He said he was fortunate that his first business, Savoy, made money at the beginning. The business was making money as he learned.
Price credits most of his success to the fact that he is never afraid to go out and do something different.