With a 6-1 vote, the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission denied a conditional use permit on April 22 that would have allowed a bar called Headwaters Draft House to open at 205 W. Hopkins St. Commissioner Brian Olson cast the lone vote in favor.
The proposal, which was originally brought before P&Z last year, included beer and liquor sales, a full restaurant menu and outdoor seating. The site has been abandoned for more than 15 years, and many residents voiced their preference to see the location developed.
Many of those who opposed the bar were concerned about its proximity to the First United Methodist Church of San Marcos and the San Marcos Montessori School. Under TABC regulations, bars must be located at least 300 feet from schools and churches. The measurement between churches is taken from the front door of one property to the front door of the other property.
In this case, the distance between the front door of the church, on Hutchison Street, and the front door of the bar was about 560 feet.
The measurement for schools is taken from the property line of the bar to the property line of the school, and that distance is about 535 feet in this case.
H.C. Kyle, a San Marcos resident who also has an office downtown, said his property has been vandalized and urinated on by bar-goers late at night. He said he hoped the commission would deny the request.
"We've got a school, church, [Alcoholics Anonymous] and [the Price Senior Center] with serious parking problems that will be caused by this," Kyle said. "I think this is a question of if there is any place in San Marcos that is less appropriate [for a bar] than this one. I don't think there is."
Commissioner Angie Ramirez made a motion to deny the permit, and Commissioner Jane Hughson seconded it.
Commissioner Brian Olson echoed former Commissioner Carter Morris' sentiment that the permit should be approved for one year, and if the establishment did not fit well with the surrounding community, the permit could be revoked. In that case, the city would be left with a quality building on the property, which could be leased to a more responsible tenant. Morris sold the property to the current owners.
"I'm disappointed that it's gone this far," Olson said. "City Council didn't even pass it. I would like to see this go through and if they don't do what they're supposed to do, we have a great building there for someone else to do what they want to do."
Kyle Meredith, a member of the group behind Headwaters Draft House, said the property is often used by squatters for shelter. Earlier this year he filed a police report after the property was broken into and occupied for an evening.
"We are doing something good with this building," Meredith said. "It would be a great benefit to the community to not have this empty eyesore."
Many commissioners voiced concerns about the hours of operation, which would have been 11 a.m.–2 a.m. every day.
Commissioner Amy Stanfield said a bar was not an ideal fit for that area. Stanfield said she received 200 emails in favor of Headwaters Draft House. She cast her vote in favor of denial.
"If the Draft House reworked it where it was more of a restaurant, then I would be more in favor of it," Stanfield said.
Kareem Hajjar, a business law attorney based in Austin who is assisting the Head Waters group, said they plan to pursue the issue further.
"We're going to regroup and go before City Council," he said after the meeting.
Todd Salmi, associate pastor at FUMCSM, said he was pleased the commission recognized the spiritual and civic importance of the area where the bar was being proposed.