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City Council to consider expansion of open container law

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 by Austin Monitor

This Thursday, Council Member Sheryl Cole and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez will be asking their fellow City Council members to approve a resolution directing the city manager to prepare an ordinance that will expand the area in which drinking in public is prohibited.


At least one East Austin business owner really hopes they succeed.


“Any time you have people that drink in front of your business,” said David Black, proprietor of Travis Engine Center, “and lie down on the sidewalk and scream and shout and moan and go behind your business and urinate and things of this nature, it’s not conducive to business, in that it’s not going to attract walk-in customers.”


Black is the acting chair of the Eastside Business Alliance, and along with Pedernales Neighborhood Association President Gloria Moreno, he contacted Cole about expanding the no-public-drinking zone as a way to improve quality of life in his neighborhood along E. 7th Street. There are currently six zones in the city, designated in the Austin City Code, where open alcohol containers are prohibited in public spaces. The resolution proposed by Cole, Martinez and Council Member Chris Riley would expand Designated Area No. 2 to include everything between the east frontage road of I-35 and the intersection of Airport Blvd. and Springdale Rd., east to west, and everything between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, north to south.


“This would be a good tool to clean the streets up,” Black told In Fact Daily. “The Seventh Street corridor is going to be redone, and if you’re going to beautify the street you might as well clean up the activity. This will improve the business district and the quality of life, the quality of business. When they put it to the west of us, it cleaned up the streets (there), and it could do the same thing here.”


According to Cole, this expansion of Designated Area No. 2 won’t prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages at a sidewalk café or an event or on private property, but it will make it illegal to walk down the street with a drink in your hand.


Martinez, meanwhile, believes citizen concerns are only natural in a situation like this, where two contiguous areas of a city have different regulations. He told In Fact Daily: “I think any time you create a zone that prohibits something from happening, much like the Save Our Springs Ordinance, (people) go right outside of that zone and conduct what you’re prohibited from doing inside the zone. So, the folks in central East Austin would like for us to consider extending it because they see more prevalent open containers, folks on the streets, hanging out at bus stops. APD concurs and believes this could help curtail some of this in the neighborhoods on East 6th, 7th, and 5th Streets.”


For Gloria Moreno, the expansion of Area No. 2 couldn’t come quickly enough: “I’ve been doing this (working on these problems) since March of 2000,” she told In Fact Daily. “You have restrictions in the downtown area and east of 35; what happened to the rest of East Austin? People who come to my neighborhood who have open containers are (often) transients that live in the warehouse district; they have no respect, they panhandle—even the elderly. I’m concerned for the citizens and for families with children that play outside; what if a child disappears? Hopefully, if people get tickets they’re going to get fined, and once they get cited, word will get around.”

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