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Eastside juice bar gets go-ahead despite some Council misgivings

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Despite hand-wringing over the prospect of a drive-though in far East Austin, a modest juice bar proposal emerged unscathed from City Council consideration last week.


“Here’s a guy trying to make a go of a small business. Everybody knows that he is going to get more business if he has this extra capability to be able to serve people who drive though,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “It’s going to be tough enough as it is. I don’t know why we would want to make it harder for him to be successful at his business.”


Jason Jagoda of Auspicious Investments, LLC asked for the zoning change for his property at 5201 Rogers Lane. He plans to open a juice bar on the lot, which he hopes will offer a healthy alternative in what is currently a food desert. The land is presently undeveloped.


In the end, City Council approved the zoning change in a unanimous vote, giving the property Neighborhood Commercial (LR) zoning. It had been Single Family (SF-2). A conditional overlay will prevent Jagoda from building a service station and prohibit access to FM 969. The change will allow a drive through to be established on the property, though that was a topic of some debate on the dais.


It was the second time Jagoda was before Council. At its prior meeting, the case was identified with an incorrect address, and had to be reposted. The extra week gave Jagoda more time to think over his business plan.


Previously, Jagoda said that while his preference was to operate the small space with a drive-through, he would be able to get by without one. He said that if it were prohibited, per the Zoning and Platting Commission’s recommendation, he could operate a “Sonic-style” juice bar and shuttle juice and snacks to patrons in their cars.


He was then informed that this was considered a drive-though under the city’s code.


Though worried about the precedent of a drive-though in the area, Council Member Chris Riley ultimately voted with the rest of Council to allow one.


“It seems like there is an opportunity now to set a tone for whether we expect it to be a long string of drive-throughs all throughout this area… I don’t know why we would not continue allowing drive-throughs all along this roadway. I suggest that if we want to set a different tone, then now would be the time to do it,” said Riley.


Jagoda said that the prohibition on access to the main road could be seen as a distinction from other businesses. He told Council that he would have to change his business model significantly in order to make a juice bar work with a drive-though prohibition.


“It’s been sitting there undeveloped for 40 years. I’m trying to do something with it, and no one wants to have a residence along this road,” said Jagoda.


Council Member Mike Martinez said that while he supported a drive-though prohibition in the East Riverside Corridor Regulating Plan, that prohibition was the result of lengthy discussion and long process.


“I think if we are going to start doing that this far out of the urban core, along what I consider mostly-rural areas, we need to plan that out and think it through,” said Martinez.


Jason Anton, who lives across the street from the property, spoke in favor of the change saying he thought it would be “fantastic for the neighborhood.”


“This will be a chance for the people in the neighborhood to get quality healthy food in a very short amount of time,” said Anton. “I think it will be a great thing.”

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