by BRAD ROLLINS
Some San Marcos bars could stay open until 2 a.m. as soon as late June depending on how long it takes the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to process applications for revised liquor, beer and wine licenses.
Following the recommendation of a taskforce, city council members on Tuesday instructed City Attorney Michael Cosentino to draft an ordinance extending hours for a first vote on May 5 and a second on May 11. If the ordinance passes on first reading, TABC will open a 30- to 60-day review period for bar owners wanting to extend their state licenses to sell alcohol for on-premise consumption, City Manager Rick Menchaca said. Then the agency will grant or deny the licenses concurrently
“It’s not going to be who is first in their door, who camps out that night. They’ll approve the licenses simultaneously,” Menchaca said.
Bars currently close at midnight Sunday through Friday and at 1 a.m. on Saturday. In a non-binding referendum on the ballot in November, 9,374, about 71.2 percent, voted in favor of 2 a.m. bar hours with 3,789, about 28.8 percent, opposed.
The ordinance, as recommended, would include a provision requiring the city council to review the ordinance six months after implementation and a second time after a year. Thereafter, the extended hours would be reviewed every two years.
The initial review period, which would fall sometime in January, would give time for unforeseen problems to emerge both during the summer, when many Texas State University students are not in town, and during the fall semester, said council member Chris Jones, who chaired the task force along with council member John Thomaides.
The task force decided not to make a recommendation on streamlining the city’s conditional use permit system for alcohol sales, which was adopted piecemeal over the decades. Said Jones, “We felt there were policy implications that should be brought to the full council.”
Provisions of that ordinance limit the number of downtown bars to 12 which has been continually adapted over the years in an attempt to define “restaurants,” which are allowed to serve alcohol downtown but since 2005 generally must maintain no more than 50 percent of their business in alcohol sales. Restaurants in operation before adoption of the “restaurant” definition have no such restriction and the accompanying reporting requirements.
Consequently, owners of some downtown establishments are hamstrung because staying open until 2 a.m. would likely tip that balance and endanger their city permit. Yet they cannot stay competitive if they close at midnight, said Brian Montgomery, who owns The Wine Cellar and is the Downtown Association president.
“What we need is a paradigm shift away from a system where basically you have to get an exception written into city law anytime you want to start a business downtown,” Montgomery said.
Email | Print