City Council wants to know whether some public drinking prohibitions are equitable

Courtesy Fotolia
Courtesy Fotolia

Courtesy Fotolia

In Austin, public consumption of alcohol is legal except in six designated areas around downtown and The University of Texas, along Lady Bird Lake and Bouldin Creek, and in three East Austin neighborhoods. At the behest of its elected officials, the city will now explore whether those prohibitions are equitable.

City Council unanimously directed city staff to craft a report that explains the what, why, where and how of Austin’s public consumption rules and whether their enforcement is “intertwined with [Austin’s] unfortunate racist history.”

The direction, brought by District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, highlights that the three areas west of I-35 that do not allow public consumption surround the central business district and entertainment districts downtown, The University of Texas campus where there is a large concentration of minors, and environmentally sensitive areas along Lady Bird Lake and Bouldin Creek. The three areas east of I-35—an area of town mired in a history of racial segregation—are in the Riverside and Montopolis neighborhoods, and a sprawling section of Central East Austin that extends from Holly Street and I-35 up to Airport Boulevard and 13th Street.

Unlike the restricted areas west of I-35, those on the east side have significant populations of single-family neighborhoods. Harper-Madison’s resolution questioned whether that posed an equity issue.

“The fact that one can freely and responsibly publicly consume and be in possession of an open container or alcohol beverage in certain single-family residential areas and not others presents an equity and fairness issue,” the resolution read. “Investigating the history and impacts of these provisions on the residents of the city is consistent with the city’s efforts to undo and combat racism and inequity.”


"Some areas seem intuitive, but some seem to conspicuously cover historically Black and Latinx neighborhoods," Harper-Madison's spokesperson Caleb Pritchard said in a statement. "The resolution seeks a report that will give us more information about [why and how] the various areas were created and whomst they have affected, in addition to recommendations about whether any changes are in order."

City Council directed city staff to draft a report by Feb. 20 that includes data on arrests and citations for each prohibited area, as well as the ethnicity and age bracket information. The report will also outline the local history of the public consumption rules and recommend whether the areas where consumption is illegal should be changed or lessened.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

Bikers ride up Shoal Creek Boulevard in February. A bond proposal from Austin would fund additional bike lanes, sidewalk reconstruction, capital improvements and more. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin will send $460 million transportation bond to voters in November

The bond would fund include capital improvements to a number of projects, including the Longhorn Dam Bridge over Lady Bird Lake. The cost to the median Austin taxpayer would be about $77-$80 per year.

The future location on South Congress Avenue would be the third located in the South Austin area. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
P. Terry's plans for S. Congress drive-thru and more Austin-area news

Read the latest Austin-area business and community news.

Tesla announced its decision to bring its next gigafactory to Travis County on July 22. (Jay Jones/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tesla posts first gigafactory jobs as construction gets underway in Travis County

The company has 49 active listings for Austin-area jobs related to the gigafactory and other operations.

A police officer rides past protesters during the June 7 Justice for Them All March. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police transformation begins in Austin as City Council approves millions in budget cuts, reinvestments, commitments

The move comes in response to a national and local reckoning over police brutality and the future of public safety.

Capital Metro's plan to build rail lines and expand its public transportation network, Project Connect, will head to voters in the city of Austin on Nov. 3. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Project Connect officially in the hands of Austin voters Nov. 3

Austin City Council took its final vote Aug. 13 on a plan to ask voters for approximately $3.85 billion in local revenue to expand the city's public transportation network.

Austin Regional Clinic location
Austin Regional Clinic now recruiting for coronavirus vaccine trial

Local health care provider Austin Regional Clinic will recruit 250 patients from the Austin area to participate in a late-phase clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine.

(Courtesy AMC Theatres)
AMC Theatres to reopen Aug. 20 with 15-cent tickets

AMC Theatres—which has multiple locations in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas—will begin reopening its movie screens Aug. 20.

Austin bars scrap for survival during monthslong shutdown

Bars are fighting through red tape to reclassify as restaurants, offering takeout orders and finding new uses for their spaces. Local business owners said they are finding every avenue possible to survive.

According to the report, 380,174 total COVID-19 cases have been reported in children nationwide as of Aug. 6, which accounts for approximately 9.1% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
REPORT: COVID-19 cases in children increase by 90% nationwide in 1 month

As school district officials across the U.S. prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children nationwide between July 9 and Aug. 6—an increase of 90%, according to a report compiled by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Burnet Road and Braker Lane
City pushing to finish Burnet Road improvements before Austin FC stadium opener

Austin construction crews will work to finish improvements at the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane in North Austin before Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC plays its first game in the upcoming stadium at McKalla Place.

Austin City Council is considering moving the forensics lab services and internal affairs department out from under the Austin Police Department and into civilian roles. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police cuts, community reinvestment, reimagining public safety on table as Austin City Council looks to adopt budget

City Council is considering a cut of more than a $150 million to the police budget.