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 years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


Mercury Hall will close in 2021. (Courtesy Mercury Hall)
Mercury Hall property cleared for 5-story apartment development

Mercury Hall will close after June 2021, and a dense multifamily development is set to arrive in its wake.

Buddy's Burger is open in Northeast Austin off of Cameron Road. (Courtesy Buddy's Burger)
Now open in Austin: Party Barn is back, drive-in movies downtown, burgers in North Austin and more

Blue Starlite began showing drive-in movies downtown in September. Buddy's Burger is open off Cameron Road and planning to expand to more locations, and new bar High Noon is open on the east side.

City Post is located at 113 E. Eighth St., Georgetown. (Courtesy City Post)
Georgetown to get steakhouse, speakeasy plus more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Easy Tiger announced Sept. 18 it had closed its downtown Austin location on Sixth Street. (Courtesy Easy Tiger)
Easy Tiger announces permanent closure of original Sixth Street location

The local bakery and restaurant remains open at the Linc and still plans to open in South Austin.

A photo of a "sold" sign
Central Austin August housing market numbers show high dollar-volume sales

While housing inventory remains low, home prices continue to rise.

Pflugerville's testing location is operated from 8 a.m.-noon Monday through Saturday where a maximum of 300 people can be tested each day at the site. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Coronavirus testing site in Pflugerville to move and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
State-created Save Muny Historic District to take over concession responsibilities at historic golf course

Negotiations over the fate of the Lions Municipal Golf Course remain ongoing between the city and The University of Texas board of regents.

Central Health administrative building in Austin
Central Health finalizes budget with increased tax rate, more health care services for low-income residents

Local health care district Central Health is budgeting a nearly $20 million increase in health care delivery services for Austin’s low-income residents.

"This season is a big, black box, and there are a lot of unknowns, as far as what the season's going to look like," said Dr. Bradley Berg, a BSW pediatrics doctor in Round Rock. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Baylor Scott & White Health to host 9 Austin-area drive-thru flu shot clinics

"This season is a big, black box, and there are a lot of unknowns, as far as what the season's going to look like," said Dr. Bradley Berg, a BSW pediatrics doctor in Round Rock.

A band performs at the Mohawk on Red River Street. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Six months into pandemic, Austin officials scrambling to save music venues, child care facilities and restaurants

City Council is set to begin making choices on which businesses to try to save on Oct. 1.

Dr. Sam Rolon is a physician for Baylor St. Luke's Medical Group Creekside Family Medicine in The Woodlands. (Courtesy St. Luke's Health)
Q&A: St. Luke's physician shares advice on flu season, vaccine and prevention

The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly all patients of all ages ahead of this year's flu season, Dr. Sam Rolon said.

student in mask
TEA launches statewide COVID-19 dashboard for public schools

The Texas Education Agency, in collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services, has launched its latest COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases in Texas public schools.