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


Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro sets ambitious goal to eventually replace all 423 buses with electric versions

Starting Jan. 26, riders can ride the new electric buses, which will rotate among routes.

(Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Council members divided over hire of outside attorney in property protest rights lawsuit

Some City Council members said taxpayer dollars should not be used to fight taxpayer interests.

Central Health is exploring options to provide a cash injection to its employees with minimum wage salaries. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Central Health will explore minimum wage bumps for its employees

The health care district is considering increasing its minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The 87,744-square-foot campus formerly occupied by HealthSouth has remained vacant for several years. (Courtesy Google Maps)
With resources limited in homelessness initiatives, potential of former HealthSouth property sparks disagreement on City Council

The city-owned 87,744-square-foot property has sat vacant in downtown Austin for years.

(Courtesy Whataburger)
Whataburger opens new location on East Oltorf Street

This is the burger chain's 19th location in Austin.

Travis County commissioners participated in budget hearings during the fiscal year 2018-19 budget process. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Travis Central Appraisal District board will host in-person meetings for informal protests in 2020

The Travis Central Appraisal District board of trustees voted to bring back in-person meetings for informal protests this year.

Residents can expect mailers to arrive by mid-March requesting they participate in the 2020 census. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
Austin-Travis County officials establish nonprofit to raise funds to support complete census count

Officials in Austin and Travis County have formed a complete count committee to support the 2020 census effort.

Austin Transportation installed "No parking" signs in 2019 on South Congress Avenue to discourage illegal parking in bicycle lanes. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Austin to start issuing tickets to drivers who park in bike-only lanes in effort to improve safety

Drivers who illegal park in a bicycle lane could receive a $300 fine and have their vehicles towed.

The modernized T.A. Brown Elementary School campus opened on Jan. 8. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
T.A. Brown among Austin ISD’s first wave of modernized campuses

T.A. Brown's new campus opened in January, shortly before the modernized Menchaca Elementary School in South Austin.

A sign guides voters in during the Nov. 6, 2019, election at Ben Hur Shrine Temple in North Central Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
See which local elected positions are on March, November ballots in Central Austin

Local elections begin with the March 3 primaries, followed by the general election in November.

East Austin Medicine Shop moves to North Central Austin

East Austin Medicine Shop relocated Nov. 25 to 1909 E. 38th 1/2 St., Ste. C2, Austin, from its previous …

Livestrong Foundation relocates HQ to North Central Austin

The Livestrong Foundation relocated its headquarters to 623 W. 38th St., Ste. 300, Austin, from 2201 E. Sixth …

Back to top