by SEAN BATURA
A San Marcos ordinance that would ban alcohol consumption outdoors downtown during late night hours appears destined for approval this month.
The San Marcos City Council voted unanimously for the ordinance on Tuesday. The ordinance will probably appear on the council’s September 20 meeting agenda for a final vote. Ordinances require two council votes to become law.
The ordinance was recommended by San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams and a task force assigned to study the effects of allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m. Taverns in San Marcos closed at midnight most days before the city, two years ago, authorized bars and restaurants to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. Williams and the task force found the extension of bar hours had little effect besides a decrease in noise complaints and an increase in arrests for the offense of driving while intoxicated.
“When the crowds get fairly large, and they’ve been drinking, there’s no one there to watch them, basically,” Williams said.
Williams said imbibers crowd the sidewalks and are more likely to fight and relieve themselves in public without the oversight of bar staff and access to restrooms.
“For the handfull of people who may be out there before 10 p.m., it’s not really a problem,” Williams said. “We don’t seem to have much trouble controlling that…it’s when the crowds get to be fairly large.”
Specifically, the ordinance would criminalize the consumption of alcohol and the possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the city’s Central Business Area from 10 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. Violation of the ordinance would be a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. People in parked vehicles, private residences, licensed premises, or buildings not owned or controlled by the city would not fall within the enforcement zone of the ordinance.
“The libertarian in me wants to keep government out of people’s lives as much as possible,” said San Marcos City Council Place 2 member Jude Prather. “Just the idea of limiting something makes me feel uncomfortable. But this isn’t limiting a behavior in someone’s home or a business practice in someone’s business. This is our sidewalks and our parking lots. And I believe this ordinance passes muster.”
Williams said once the ordinance is approved, the city will post signs and police will issue warnings to violators for 30 days. Williams said police will enforce the ordinance after the 30-day period by first asking violators to remove the alcohol from the enforcement zone. If violators do not comply, police will issue citations, Williams said.Email | Print