Parks Council Rejects Proposal To Sell Alcohol To Zilker Cafe

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The issue of alcohol sales at Zilker Café made its third and final appearance before the Parks and Recreation Council on Tuesday, with council members casting a decisive 8-1 vote against the proposal’s recommendation, given the proximity of the proposal. cafe – about 30 steps – at the entrance. at the Barton Springs Pool.

The sale of beer and wine in a municipal park requires a conditional use permit, which must first receive a recommendation from the parks council before being considered by the Planning Commission. And depending on the legal department’s interpretation of the city code, a recommendation from the parks council, a non-sovereign entity, doesn’t have to be favorable.

In the motion presented by Sarah Faust, Council member, Council recommended that the Planning Commission deny the conditional use permit.

For some board members, the testimony of pool employees offered the most compelling reason to vote against the proposal’s recommendation, even prompting board member Rich DePalma to change his vote and join the majority. Board member Nina Rinaldi acknowledged the concerns of pool workers, but maintained her original argument that selling beer and wine at the cafe would improve the experience for park users.

At the board meeting in June, the 4-2 vote against the conditional use permit recommendation was rendered moot because at least six votes were needed to move the issue to the Planning Committee. . In August, the board voted to reconsider the proposal at its September meeting.

PARD anticipates the planning committee’s review of the zoning exception on October 12 or 26.

As in previous meetings, Barton Springs pool patrons and at least three pool staff have overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to the sale of alcohol at the cafe. However, several speakers also said they believed city council-approved supplier SpringFed would sell beer and wine responsibly. They also praised the seller for their plan to offer healthy food options, fresh juices, and smoothies. What they didn’t understand was why alcohol had to be included in the menu.

Pool cashier Adara Hansard told the board that the most combative customers are those who want to bring alcoholic drinks into the pool. “People wait 30 minutes, sometimes even up to an hour on busy summer days. They are hot, they want to go swimming and maybe they just have alcohol in their hands, ”she said. “They may not be from Austin, or they may be from Austin, but not everyone is aware of our alcohol policy.”

As a cashier, she is responsible for refusing entry of potential swimmers into the pool, whether they have already paid or not. “We have a no-refund policy, and explaining to people who have waited that long in this kind of heat is difficult. People can be very upset. I’ve had many incidents where people have yelled at me, threatened me, got aggressive with me, ”Hansard said, adding that one person had become so upset that they refused to leave. “It took my manager threatening to call the police for him to actually leave the facility,” she said.

For Hansard, the idea of ​​selling alcohol so close to the pool seemed “intimidating” since it’s his job to enforce the rules.

Rescuer Scott Cobb, making another appearance before the board, said dealing with alcohol-related offenses is already a distraction from other staff duties. He is concerned that there are more people who do not recognize the risks associated with drinking and swimming in Barton Springs, given its natural and wild state.

Dennis Moreno testified that during his four years of working at the pool, he had to personally deal with many customers who were unhappy with the city’s alcohol-free policy. “I saw a lot of harassment,” he said. “I have seen a lot of abuse of cashiers and lifeguards regarding the alcohol policy. Adding another part to this battle would seem a little pointless and a little frustrating to the people who work there.

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