In an effort to bolster the entertainment industry in Lockhart, the city council will soon consider the notion of extending the sale of alcoholic beverages to allow bars to remain open until 2 a.m.
The notion was introduced to the council on Tuesday evening by District 1 Councilmember Kenny Roland, in one of his last official actions as a member of the Lockhart City Council. Roland, who opted not to run for re-election this year, will be replaced on Dec. 21 by the winner of this week’s District 1 Runoff Election.
“I’ve been approached by… owners asking to have the option to stay open later,” Roland said. “It would give them the chance to draw the customers that are leaving our community to go elsewhere, and it will help them sell a little bit more.”
Roland said the initiative was important because, although some in the community do not approve of the entertainment industry or the sale of alcohol, the fact is such businesses are a part of the community, and deserve the same support enjoyed by other businesses.
Lockhart Police Department Chief Mike Lummus briefly addressed the notion, suggesting that extending bar hours, while it might increase the number of calls police respond to at such locations, would likely not create an undue burden on the police department on the whole.
“The statistics show that in terms of us responding to the bars, the numbers are pretty low,” he said, citing research that proves that less than 1 percent of the department’s responses are to Lockhart’s four bars. “What I don’t know is how adding two hours [of sales] will affect that. I’m sure it will have an impact, but I just don’t know what that impact will be.”
When asked to offer a personal opinion on the matter, Lummus declined.
“What I want to do is give you the statistics and information to make this decision easier for you,” he said. “The last thing I want to see is the possibility of a councilmember making this decision not because of what the community needs, or what the statistics show, but because of what the police chief personally thinks.”
Paulette Hayter, who owns one of the bars in question, said she was unaware until early this week that the council would be discussing the measure, but suggested though it would be a useful tool, her establishment would likely not utilize the extended hours on a regular basis.
District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks expressed concerns about safety issues, drunken driving most notably, with regard to the idea.
“Do the economic benefits outweigh the social costs,” he asked. “People that want to be out driving around and still want to be drinking at that hour of the morning does not seem like a good thing for our community.”
Newly-elected At Large Councilmember Angie Gonzales-Sanchez noted that not all individuals who stay out late do so with the intention of drinking. Some, she said are just “social people” who like to socialize with their friends and families at clubs, and later act as designated drivers for their groups.
Other councilmembers expressed concern that the issue is one that many people in the community feel strongly about, and thought a more appropriate course of action would be to hold a public hearing, allowing bar owners, bar patrons and community residents to discuss the issue and make their feelings known to the council, rather than amending the existing ordinance without requesting public input.
The council voted, finally, to do just that. A public hearing will be set on a future agenda of the Lockhart City Council, and those with opinions on the issue will be invited to make those opinions known.
In other business, the council took the relatively rare action of upholding a property owner’s appeal of a decision made by the Lockhart Historical Preservation Commission.
The conflict, which generated nearly an hour of discussion, was based on the desire of downtown property owner Robert Mendez to replace the windows on the upper floor of his building with aluminum framed “colonial” windows, as opposed to the “two-over-two” wooden windows that are pre-approved under the Historic Preservation Ordinance.
Mendez, who began the process of renovating his building in 2007 and met with the Commission at that time, received clearance for most of the repairs he wanted to make. The windows, however, according to the minutes of the 2007 meeting, were a sticking point, and the Commission made it clear that Mendez was being asked to install “two-over-two” windows, rather than the “colonial” style windows which are currently installed in the structure.
Mendez recently opted to purchase the replacement windows in the “colonial” style and asked the Commission for a Certificate For Alteration to install them. The Commission denied his request, prompting the appeal to the city council.
Three members of the Historical Preservation Commission spoke to the issue, reminding the council that Mendez was aware, or should have been aware, that the windows he’d purchased were not approved under the ordinance and were, in fact, expressly denied by the Commission in 2007.
Mendez and his representatives, however, argued the colonial windows were the same as the
windows currently installed in the building, which were installed in 1985, and prior to the Historical Preservation Ordinance having been introduced or passed into law. He said the façade of the building, and its current appearance, would not be changed by installation of the windows.
Although most councilmembers speaking to the issue expressed overall support for the decision of the Commission, they also said they understood Mendez’s position, and wondered if a compromise was possible.
In the end, they voted 4-3 to uphold Mendez’s appeal. Mayor Ray Sanders, District 3 Councilmember Lew White and Banks voted to deny the appeal and uphold the decision of the Commission.
The Council approved an amendment to the city’s agreement with AdviTech, Inc. The initial agreement called for the city to build a building for the company in the Lockhart Industrial Park. However, AdvitTech’s changing needs called for a much larger facility than was originally planned. Another building in the Industrial Park came on the market for sale, and rather than build, the Economic Development Corporation considered the possibility of buying that building, at a negotiated price of $330,000.
According to City Manager Vance Rodgers, the decision to purchase instead of build was driven by AdviTech’s claims that they needed a larger facility to uphold certain requirements of the government contracts they hope to secure. However, Rodgers said that while he supported purchasing the building to move forward with the agreement, he did not support making any improvements until AdviTech, Inc., provides certain financial documentation which has not yet been supplied to the city.
The total cost to the city involved with the AdviTech, Inc., project is expected not to exceed $700,000, which includes the purchase and maintenance of the building, and will also include remodeling, labor and clean-up costs.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.