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.”