Council eyes booze ban

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

In response to growing interest in entertainment development in the Downtown Historic District, the City Council reviewed their standing ordinance regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages within a certain proximity to churches and schools during their regular meeting on Tuesday night.

Prior to Tue

sday evening, the City’s Code of Ordinances provided that business owners could apply for a variance to the ruling that alcoholic beverages may not be sold within 300 feet of a church or school through the Board of Adjustments. The proposed change, however, aligns the city’s codes with those of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and allows for a proprietor seeking a variance to come straight to the City Council.

“This ordinance reflects TABC law,” said City Attorney Peter Gruning. “The meat of this is the procedure for requesting a variance, which we didn’t have in place.”

Gruning added that he and City Manager Vance Rodgers had put together the ordinance change to spell out clearly the steps that need to be taken by both the application, and the council.

“This review is on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We don’t set any kind of precedent by allowing one and denying another. That’s not how this ordinance works.”

The review of the ordinance was triggered by the fact that, in recent months, several businesses have attempted to locate to the Downtown Historic District, which is heavily populated with both entertainment-driven businesses, and churches. Some have run into problems with their business plan because of the so-called “300-foot” rule.

“I think it’s a great thing to look at permits on an individual basis, but you might be setting yourself up for lawsuits or discrimination charges, or another show like we had over Lilly’s,” said Tony Bowen, the owner of a wine bar in the Downtown Historic District. “I think that this rule allows people to go to the Council and say who they want their neighbors to be.”

Bowen, who said he supports keeping the “300-foot” rule in place with respect to schools, encouraged the Council to do away with it in regards to churches.

“There is room for everyone,” he said. “And some, we all have to find ways to get along with our neighbors. If we can’t get along, there are laws in place that the police can help us with our neighbors.”

Because the draft ordinance reflects State law, Gruning said the case-by-case variance process is the only way to examine situations in which the rules might be “a little too strict,” and that the rules set up for public hearings and input from all affected parties.

The Council voted 6-1 to adopt the changes. Though he offered no explanation for his dissent, District One Councilmember Juan Mendoza voted against the change.

In other business:

The Council accepted the recommendation of the Revolving Loan Committee to extend a $30,000 business loan to Margarita’s Tortilla Factory.

The veteran Lockhart manufacturer specializing in organic tortillas and tamales has expanded their operation nationwide, and therefore needs additional cold storage to satisfy their shipping needs. Under local ordinance, the City can extend a loan up to 50 percent of the current balance of the Revolving Loan account, which currently rests at $225,000, according to Finance Director Jeff Hinson.

The loan is available at a low interest rate, and has been extended on a 60 month repayment term.

Margarita’s will use the funds to purchase an expanded walk-in freezer to support their operations.

In brief news:

The Council heard reports from the Finance Department regarding the City’s investment pools, and a report from the Economic Development Department regarding possible business and residential developments.

Rodgers reported that the purchase of two properties, one on Steuve Lane and another on Loma Street, have been completed and are being prepared for use in upcoming drainage projects.

They approved a five-year contract with the Hill Country Cookoff Association for the use of Lockhart City Park during the second weekend of October for their Championship Cookoff.

The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Council Chambers of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Complex. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.

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