Austin Planning Commission turns down plan to sell beer, wine at Zilker Cafe

The Park and Recreation Board voted twice to deny a request to allow beer and wine to be sold in the area around Zilker Cafe. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Park and Recreation Board voted twice to deny a request to allow beer and wine to be sold in the area around Zilker Cafe. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Park and Recreation Board voted twice to deny a request to allow beer and wine to be sold in the area around Zilker Cafe. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Austin Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of a Parks and Recreation Department request for a change of use of a 6,673-square-foot area around Zilker Cafe to sell beer and wine.

The Parks and Recreation Department was requesting a Parks and Recreation Services Special Use to sell alcoholic beverages at the renovated Zilker Cafe near Barton Springs Pool. Staff with the Development Services Department recommended approval of the conditional use permit. However, the Parks and Recreation board voted 8-1 to recommend the Planning Commission, City Council and any other board considering the item deny the request. Parks and Recreation Board Member Nina Rinaldi voted against the motion to deny the request. Planning Commission members voted 8-2 to recommend City Council deny the request with Planning Commission member Awais Azhar abstaining.

“I’m having a hard time understanding the motivation in the first place,” Board Member Lisa Hugman said at a Parks and Recreation Department Sept. 28 meeting.

Many community and staff members at the Parks and Recreation Board meeting spoke against the change of use citing potential danger alcoholic beverages can bring to swimming or supervising children. Beer and wine would only be sold and consumed within the immediate area of the cafe, according to a representative of the Parks and Recreation Department.

Ashton Cumberbatch, legal representative of Zilker Cafe's vendor, said safety is a top priority within the vendors' business proposal documents.



Parks and Recreation Board Member Sarah Faust said the request is not compatible with existing uses of the area.

“This includes Barton Springs pool, the playground, the children’s train, the natural creek and the hiking trail,” Faust said. “[These amenities] have an increased level of danger when we sell alcohol to the people who are using them.”

Planning Commission member Joao Paulo Connolly said there needs to be an objective standard in making decisions concerning a request such as this instead of judging each case individually. Connolly voted against the recommendation to deny the change in use request.

“We approved the [selling of alcohol at Waterloo Greenway] unanimously,” Connolly said. “There should be a fair standard debated by council.”

By Trent Thompson

Reporter, Austin Metro

Trent joined Community Impact Newspaper as an intern in May 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Austin in December 2020. In July 2021, he was promoted to Austin Metro reporter. He covers several news beats from education and government to dining, transportation, nonprofits, and healthcare. However, his primary beat is business and development. Before working at CI, Trent wrote for The Daily Texan, UT's daily student newspaper, and worked on many projects of his own for his undergraduate program. In his free time Trent writes poetry, spends time with loved ones, and watches Star Wars for the hundredth time, including other new movies.