Austin City Council denied an appeal to an outdoor music venue permit for Home Slice Pizza at its Aug. 2 meeting. The permit, which was granted to the restaurant in March, was upheld by a 4-2 vote.
On March 20, Bill and Mary Ley, property owners within 600 feet of Home Slice Pizza, filed to appeal the approval of the permit on the basis that the restaurant is too close to residential areas, making it a serial noise violator and leads to inadequate parking. There are six additional appellants listed on the report.
"I want to be absolutely clear to everybody in the room here, we do not hate outdoor music, we do not hate music, we do not even hate pizza," said Mark Davis, the president of South River City Citizens, who represented the appellants in front of the council. "The reason for the appeal request is because Home Slice's location, and in particular the location of their outdoor stage, makes it absolutely absurd for them to have any sort of regular outdoor event."
The Planning and Development Review Department approved the outdoor music venue permit for Home Slice Pizza, located at 1415 S. Congress Ave., on March 12. The permit allows the business to host a total of six live performances per year, said Terri Hannifan, co-owner of Home Slice Pizza. In the past, the restaurant has hosted two events per year, a daytime event during SXSW and a carnival for the business' anniversary. Both events raise money for charity.
In the report, the appellants said they are already denied use and access to their homes due to the current amount of customers, and outdoor music would draw in even more. Their main reason for the appeal is noise pollution, Davis said.
Connie Todd, one of the appellants, told the council that her house on South Congress has been in her family for 109 years. She knew that her surroundings would change when she moved in 30 years ago, she said, but still wanted to stay.
"Residents can upgrade their air filters to combat the climbing air quality, they can call police if someone is using the front yard for a bathroom, they can put on rubber gloves and pick up trash and clean off graffiti, they can call 911 if their driveway's blocked but they can't get away from excessive outdoor noise," Todd said.
Davis said the appellants have made numerous calls to Home Slice whenever there is too much noise to ask them to comply with the city ordinance, but the calls often get hung up on or ignored. Hannifan said the business always accepts the calls and immediately turns off the speakers if they receive a complaint.
The appellants requested to have an APD officer onsite to operate a decibel meter during Home Slice's events, Davis said. The residents would like sound absorption material installed and the speakers angled downward away from the residences. The appellants also wanted the business to be restricted to two large events per year rather than the six events the permit allows.
"Although we completely respect the concerns of the appellant, we also feel like we have a responsibility to the hundreds, if not thousands of other people in the neighborhood that actually really support Home Slice and their events," Hannifin said.
There were 23 citizens at the City Council meeting wearing T-shirts that read "78704 Live Music" to show their support of Home Slice Pizza. Manuel Gonzalez, the director of the Austin Bat Cave—a writing and tutoring center for children—said the nonprofit would not be alive without the help of Home Slice's charity events.
In response to the appeal, a petition in support of the outdoor music permit was launched on thepetitionsite.com. As of Aug. 2, the petition had 1,014 signatures.
The appeal was denied by a vote of 4-2. When asked by Councilwoman Laura Morrison if both parties would be willing to work together toward a compromise, members from both parties agreed.