by SEAN BATURA
San Marcos’ economic development board may have breathed new life into Rooftop on the Square, an upscale restaurant/bar whose backers were blindsided by changes made in April to ever-evolving rules restricting the number of bars allowed downtown.
Brandon Cash of Austin wants to redevelop an empty building at 126 Guadalupe Street into a two-story restaurant to include open-air dining on both floors. However, because the property is downtown, he has to jump through additional regulatory hoops to legally serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
The property at 126 Guadalupe Street has stood vacant for almost 12 years and has been something of “an eye sore” and “the focus for graffiti and blight,” said Amy Madison, city economic development director.
In the spring, city staff had told Cash he would probably be able to serve mixed beverages as long as his establishment provided two four-hour meal periods per day. The meal period rule was proposed to replace the existing law that required at least 50 percent of an establishment’s gross receipts to come from sources other than alcohol sales, such as food.
Cash told city staff his business plan would fit within the proposed regulation, and he purchased the property. However, before he obtained necessary permits, the city council unexpectedly added more requirements: a six-month waiting period for a beer and wine permit, and a year waiting period for a mixed beverage permit.
“It’s just really hard to sustain a restaurant just on food sales,” Cash said Sept. 15. “And it would deter clientele. Most people go out to have dinner with a margarita or a glass of wine. It would basically kill the [business] concept.”
The council approved both waiting periods and the meal period requirement on April 19 by a 5-2 vote, with council members Chris Jones and Fred Terry casting the dissenting votes.
“That came in at the recommendation of the Downtown Association sort of late in the process and was not communicated to (Cash),” said San Marcos city planner Jon Foreman. “If he would have had some kind of permit application in, he may have been vested. But that wasn’t the case. We explored that.”
After a briefing by Madison and statements by Foreman, the Economic Development Board on Sept. 15 unanimously advised that city council members allow Cash to sell alcoholic beverages without having to endure the waiting periods.
In arguing for the variance, city staff said Rooftop on the Square would “make a unique or unequaled contribution to development or redevelopment efforts in the city” and “incorporate design or construction features or characteristics that exceed city regulations or standards.”
The city council will have the ultimate say on Cash’s variance request.
“Personally, I’m not of the opinion that this committee is here to make a lot of exceptions, but I think…when a business makes a decision based on correct information from staff — which, at the time, it was — that an exception is warranted,” said Don Nash, the local Wells Fargo business banking manager who chairs the economic development board.
According to a report Madison presented to the Economic Development Board on Sept. 15, the current value of the building at 126 Guadalupe Street is $9,300 and provides $49 in property tax revenue to the city. Cash’s plans to redevelop the site may increase the property’s value to nearly $300,000 and result in property tax revenue to the city of about $1,591.
According to Madison’s report, the Rooftop on the Square will employ eight full time employees and 19-25 part time employees. The estimated average wage for the management team of four people is $45,000. Wages for 2-3 cooks will range from $10-$15 per hour. The average wage for the two hostesses may be $10-12 per hour. The remaining 9-12 staff, including bartenders and severs, would be paid $4 per hour plus gratuities, Madison said.Email | Print