Nephews bartender Tony Constantino poured drinks during a recent midnight last call. The call could take place at 2 a.m. as soon as June. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
San Marcos bars and restaurants may have the option of selling alcohol until 2 a.m. as early as June.
A task force charged with making recommendations to council on a possible extension of time for on-premise alcohol sale and consumption advised council that implementation could occur by mid-summer.
“(The extension should) start when it’s not that busy,” Councilmember Chris Jones said, “so we can adjust and get a feel of what’s happening.”
Most college students will have left for home in the summer while school is out. Jones said that makes the summer a perfect time for the city and business owners to adjust to the new change and prepare for the heavy bar traffic anticipated when school resumes.
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said council will take its first and final votes on an ordinance allowing an extension for on-premise alcohol sale and consumption in May.
“If we, as a council, chose to approve the ordinance, then the wheels will begin turning towards the extension,” Narvaiz said.
City Manager Rick Menchaca said if the legislation is approved by council, then the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) will begin taking applications from businesses that want licensing to allow for the change. Menchaca said the TABC process and review could take between one and two months and all businesses, if approved, will then receive the new licenses simultaneously.
“It’ll be more like 45 to 60 days,” Menchaca said. “That’s what we are realistically looking at.”
Narvaiz voiced concern of rumors alleging “adult-oriented businesses” may move to San Marcos once the new change comes to fruition. Council advised staff to look into zoning and legal inquiries regarding the welcoming of an “adult-oriented business.” San Marcos currently only has one adult store within the city limits.
“Even if we don’t go to 2 a.m. that possibility still exists,” Jones said.
Council also directed staff to look into conditional use permits (CUP) throughout the city to address any possible changes necessary or any concerns that may arise.
“Our downtown dynamic depends on CUPs,” Narvaiz said. “Some businesses may start up around our neighborhoods. They may not want to move to our downtown and instead choose some of our small business pockets throughout the city. We should have forethought on whether we want bars opening everywhere.”
Among the many concerns arising from the possible bar extension, several are problems the city already faces.
“We felt like transportation is going to be the largest feat,” Jones said.
Menchaca said the task force is working in conjunction with the university in addressing “drunk driving”. He said a possibility remains that SWAT (Students With Alternative Transportation) may extend its hours of operation from its current 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.
“SWAT will provide a safe and reliable service, free of charge, to Texas State University-San Marcos students, within the San Marcos community, who are intoxicated and/or to students unable to drive due to other circumstances,” according to its website.
Menchaca said other considerations include attracting more taxis and improving the “40-year-old” legislation that regulates them, as well as looking into a new agreement with the city’s bus services, CARTS (Capital Area Rural Transportation System).
Menchaca said the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD), Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and the Central Texas Medical Center have “no issues” with the proposed legislation and are preparing for the change. He said all entities have agreed that changes will be brought forth as necessary.
SMPD will undergo a new structuring of on-duty hours, extending officers’ shifts from 10 to 12 hours. Menchaca said during initial implementation of the ordinance, officers will be compensated over time until the officers’ bargaining agent and the city work out the details of the new shifts.
In the ordinance to be presented to council, a special clause will demand a review six months after implementation. Jones said the review allow council to address any complications or new developments. The ordinance will also call for a review a year after implementation and another analysis the following year.
TABC and SMPD have provided statistics on alcohol related incidents in San Marcos and they are to serve as data for comparison to reviews scheduled for the extension to 2 a.m.
Menchaca said that in the task force’s research, data was not available neither from New Braunfels nor College Station on their experiences with extending hours to 2 a.m. Menchaca said both cities reverted back to midnight hours and College Station specifically has gone back and forth several times.
Menchaca said a link will be produced on the city’s website enabling citizens to provide input on the proposed legislation.
“This will be for citizens to speak directly regarding bar hours,” Menchaca said.