Friday, May 1, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Radio Coffee and Beer wins Planning Commission case

Though there were a number of conditions attached to the approval before it was all said and done, plans to allow liquor sales at Radio Coffee and Beer are moving forward.Planning Commissioners granted a request for a cocktail lounge permit at Radio Coffee and Beer.

Radio Coffee and Beer, located at 4204 Manchaca Road, was granted a Conditional Use Permit by the Planning Commission that will allow it to serve hard alcohol, though the owners of the establishment say they have no plans to do so. The commission also approved a waiver for parking within 200 feet of residential buildings. Commissioners voted 7-1, with Commissioner Jean Stevens voting in opposition.

Neighbors had initial concerns about traffic, parking and noise. Since then, the owners of the business have agreed to restrict hours and ban outdoor amplified sound as well as outdoor live music, except on the patio farthest from the neighborhood. No one spoke against the Conditional Use Permit or waiver at the Tuesday meeting.

Though commissioners granted the permit, they did so with conditions.

It was the third time the case had come before the commission, and unlike previous visits, Radio Coffee and Beer had the support of city staff, who had worked out a number of stipulations. They included an agreement to comply with the sidewalk ordinance, to close the driveway to Fort View Road and to remove parking closest to Manchaca Road to accommodate the driveway. In addition, the business agreed to have the Transportation Department review plans for a median that would limit access and egress to right turns only on Manchaca Road.

Public Works Director Howard Lazarus raised questions about limiting left turns into the parking lot, saying that people making U-turns down the road to access the lot could ultimately make traffic worse. He said the changes in the right of way would need approval from his department.

Radio Coffee and Beer will also be offering off-site parking about 500 feet away. Commissioner Nuria Zaragoza pointed out that for a short stretch, there is a section of sidewalk missing en route to that parking. She added a condition that there be a continuous sidewalk from the off-site parking to the business. Given practical concerns, that was later modified to a requirement that there be a “pedestrian path of some sort.”

Zaragoza also noted that, while the off-site parking was proposed to be available from 5 p.m. until midnight, when she visited in the afternoon it was “crazy busy” with cars parked in an equally crazy manner.

Husch Blackwell partner Nikelle Meade was representing the applicant. She said that its lease allowed parking 24/7 and it was only restricting hours to the evening because that was when it seemed most needed. Zaragoza and the rest of the commission quickly accepted her offer to extend those off-site parking hours into the daytime, and added it as another condition of approval.

The 11 parking spaces on a nearby street that count toward the requirement also came under fire. Amanda Couch, with the city’s Development Services Department, said that on the site plan there would be a note that those spaces would not be reserved solely for the establishment and can be taken away at any time. However, under city code, those spaces will still count toward the minimum parking requirement.

Ex officio member Jeff Jack expressed skepticism that the lease on the off-site parking would last. Meade explained that in this case, the lot’s owner, Radio Coffee and Beer’s owner and the Planning and Zoning director would have to agree to terminate the parking lease. Additionally, the city now requires a restrictive covenant and memorandum of understanding for shared parking agreements.

Lazarus also thought it was strange that the lot would be available, in perpetuity, for parking given the increasing value of property in the city. Though Meade said that was indeed the case, she understood that doubt.

“If I were the owner, I would not have agreed that the owner would have to consent (to terminating the lease), but this owner did,” said Meade. “I will say that our client is paying a lot of money for that parking.”

This story has been corrected. After publication, Radio Coffee and Beer clarified that while they did obtain a cocktail lounge CUP, they had no plans to use it to sell liquor. The permit will also allow the business to have more than 49 percent of their total revenue come from alcohol sales.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Husch Blackwell: The legal firm formerly Brown-McCaroll, a locally-based practice, before that entity was purchased by the national Husch-Blackwell. Practice areas include Real Estate and Development.

South Austin: South Austin is, very roughly, the portion of Austin south of Lady Bird Lake.

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