Friday, September 26, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Torchy’s Tacos liquor plan raises eyebrows

A plan to sell hard liquor at the new South Congress Torchy’s Tacos has caught the attention of Austin Interfaith.

For its 1822 South Congress Ave. location, Torchy’s Tacos is seeking a waiver from the portion of the city code that requires liquor sales be located more than 300 feet from schools. That location was once home to Fran’s Hamburgers.

Though City Council was only posted to set a public hearing for the request, Austin Interfaith’s Kurt Cadena-Mitchell asked that the hearing be delayed slightly to allow the organization, neighbors and a nearby school get up to speed on the request. He explained that one week would not be enough time.

“It was only by chance that we saw the item on the agenda for today,” said Cadena-Mitchell. “Originally, when (Torchy’s Tacos) met with Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, my understanding was they would only sell beer and wine. Now it’s for hard liquor as well.”

Cadena-Mitchell said that Austin Interfaith was originally told the request would not trigger the requirement for a waiver. That proved not to be the case, because the new Torchy’s is located 178 feet from Fulmore Middle School. He explained that the school’s PTA had not yet been notified of the request due to the system being set up to notify the school district, which doesn’t automatically reach the school.

“None of the parents that I’ve spoken with at Fulmore are aware of it,” said Cadena-Mitchell. He added that about 10 years ago, a gas station across the street was granted permission to sell liquor when “AISD was asleep at the wheel” and didn’t register opposition. Those sales cause “tremendous problems” to this day, according to Cadena-Mitchell. He said that, because of that precedent, liquor sales at Torchy’s didn’t seem like a good idea either, but the group wanted time to discuss it further.

Attempts to reach Torchy’s Tacos or its representatives were unsuccessful, and no one from the business spoke at the Council meeting Thursday.

Council voted to set the hearing for Oct. 23, instead of the original request of Oct. 2.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Austin Interfaith: Austin Interfaith is a coalition of congregations, schools and unions who work together to address community issues. The group is non-partisan, and focuses on issues that affect families, working people and neighborhoods in the city. AI is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, which is a national organization.

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