A key vote by the Parks and Recreation Board might have to be recast because of a scarcity of board members required to contemplate a proposal to promote beer and wine on the newly renovated Zilker Cafe adjoining to Barton Springs Pool.

Parks and Recreation Division officers have been apparently unaware that greater than six members have been wanted to resolve the query of whether or not to advocate a conditional use allow for the cafe. Below metropolis code, the sale of beer or wine in a public area requires a zoning change in addition to a advice from the parks board earlier than the matter may be thought-about by the Planning Fee.

After an hour of public testimony and a spherical of sturdy deliberation, the board voted 4-2 on Tuesday in opposition to recommending the allow software for the cafe. Constructed in 1950 and 1960, the modified constructing is a contributing construction to the Zilker Nationwide Register Historic District. The cafe closed in 2016 to permit for repairs and renovation whereas preserving many of the historic outer shell. The cafe is scheduled to open this yr, with or with out the sale of alcohol.

On Wednesday, it was unclear what the parks division would do subsequent, contemplating that two board members who have been absent from Tuesday’s assembly – Sarah Faust and Kim Taylor – would spherical out the six votes in opposition, assuming all members are current if the case returns to the board. Faust and Taylor every despatched an e-mail stating their opposition, which Chair Daybreak Lewis learn into the file.

Parks Director Kimberly McNeeley mentioned Wednesday that the division is reviewing the code and contemplating choices for subsequent steps. Division employees members had labored laborious to ship on a proposal that was launched below former Parks Director Sara Hensley, and the seller is keen to get began.

The Zilker Cafe case comes at a time when the division is overwhelmed by a number of challenges heading right into a busy summer time on the heels of the Covid pandemic. There’s the annual scramble to rent lifeguards and open metropolis swimming pools, coupled with the continued strain to adjust to separate mandates from voters and the state to maneuver folks experiencing homelessness out of parks and different public locations.

Add the prospect of alcohol to the combo and issues can go haywire. On this case, it was the proposal to promote wine and beer in such shut proximity to Barton Springs Pool – which many individuals contemplate sacred floor – that prompted environmental teams and common patrons of the pool to mobilize forces to oppose the appliance. The Austin Sierra Membership, Save Our Springs Alliance and Save Barton Creek Affiliation all organized e-mail opposition campaigns.

Scott Cobb, a Barton Springs lifeguard, informed the board that the lifeguards weren’t consulted concerning the the proposal to promote alcohol so near the pool. “Loads of us have been shocked to listen to about this proposal as a result of certainly one of our essential duties is to implement the principles in opposition to having alcohol on the pool,” he mentioned.

Like different audio system, Cobb identified that it’s not unusual for folks to sneak alcohol into the pool space. “Individuals who have been ingesting pose a security danger to themselves, the patrons and the lifeguards. A few of that alcohol goes to finish up contained in the gates of the pool as a result of it will likely be inside folks’s bellies once they enter.”

On the opposite aspect, public testimony in help of the proposal outnumbered these talking in opposition to, 19 to 11. Supporters argued that opponents have been incorrectly tying the cafe to the pool, stating that they wish to get pleasure from a beer or glass of wine whereas their youngsters play within the park.

SpringFed, the native hospitality group that was awarded the Metropolis Council-approved contract in 2019, is led by Rick Garrett and fashionable Austin chef and restaurateur Shawn Cirkiel. The pair introduced two completely different messages to the board. Cirkiel touched on the improved menu alternatives that embody wholesome vegetarian and vegan meals choices, all regionally sourced, with compostable service ware.

Garrett informed the board, “Lots of the feedback (against alcohol) are primarily based on worry.” He mentioned he and Cirkiel run or are in partnerships with 16 meals and beverage websites all through the town, together with at Austin-Bergstrom Worldwide Airport, the place they maintain a metropolis contract to function consuming institutions within the new terminal. “We made this idea and we created this idea particularly for Barton Springs Pool,” he mentioned, including that he and Cirkiel have a confirmed file of promoting beer and wine responsibly.

Board members Nina Rinaldi and Wealthy DePalma forged the dissenting votes, arguing the extra amenity of wine and beer gross sales at Zilker would add worth for park guests. They pointed to the laid-back ambiance at Alta’s Cafe positioned on city-owned property alongside Woman Chook Lake. The cafe is a part of the watercraft operations run by the Austin Rowing Membership.

Board members voting in opposition to the proposal included Laura Cottam Sajbel, who made the movement in opposition to the allow software after calling the division proposal “a extremely ill-conceived concept.” She mentioned the town can be placing itself at severe danger for legal responsibility if alcohol is served simply 90 toes from the pool area. Becoming a member of her within the movement have been Chair Lewis, Anna Di Carlo and Nancy Barnard.

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