Amid rapid growth and in the wake of city elections loosening restrictions on alcoholic drink sales, numerous bars, restaurants and entertainment venues have cropped up in Kyle and Buda in the past two years—and that trend is set to continue in the months ahead.
In 2014, Kyle residents saw a dance hall swing open its doors, and the city's first movie theater—which also features bowling, games, a bar and restaurant—opened its box office. A barbecue establishment—which includes a bar and outdoor games—set up shop in Buda, where a few months later a pinball arcade unveiled its sprawling property on the I-35 frontage road.
Also in Buda, a former mill is being transformed into a commercial hub with possibilities for a restaurant, winery and brewery. On Kyle's Center Street, a former barbecue restaurant is set to become a bar and entertainment venue.
"Kyle is one of the fastest growing cities and Hays County is one of the fastest growing counties," said Mitchell Roberts, vice president of development for Texas Cinema, which owns the new Kyle movie theater. "You put Buda and Kyle [together], and that's just a beautiful market for any kind of family entertainment venue."
EVO Entertainment, Texas Cinema's Kyle entertainment venue, is expected to generate about $8 million in taxable revenue for the city in the business's first year, Roberts said. Since a referendum in which Kyle voters approved loosening alcohol sales in 2012, mixed-beverage sales tax revenue has increased by an average of $12,227 annually, according to data from the Texas Comptroller's office.
The city of Buda, which passed a similar measure in November 2012, has historically lagged behind Kyle's mixed-beverage sales. However, recent reports from the Texas Comptroller's office indicate the city is catching up to its larger counterpart, with $8,584 in mixed-beverage tax dollars reported in Buda to Kyle's $8,867 in the third quarter of 2014.
Last call extension in Kyle
But that may change after Kyle City Council passed an ordinance Nov. 19 allowing bars and restaurants in the city to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. Before passage of the ordinance, drinking establishments were not able to sell alcohol past midnight.
James Rios, owner of Centerfield Sports Bar and Grill in Kyle, opened Desperados, a dance hall on Kyle's Center Street, in late October. Rios advocated for the ordinance and said it would not only enhance the financial prospects of the city but also increase safety by keeping drunken motorists off the road who would have otherwise driven from Kyle's drinking establishments to Austin or San Marcos to continue drinking.
"It's a great step forward," Rios said of the ordinance. "It just goes to show that the City Council is not afraid to grow and not afraid of change. It really listens to what the community wants."
Not everyone agreed keeping bars open until 2 a.m. would be a good thing. Jerry Kolacny, who resides near downtown, said he feared the ordinance would attract criminal activity, thus depreciating the property values within the downtown district and the neighborhood that surrounds it.
In 2010 last-call hours were extended to 2 a.m. in San Marcos. Bob Klett, assistant chief of operations with the San Marcos Police Department, said the city has experienced a slight uptick in alcohol-related offenses, such as public intoxication and driving while intoxicated. SMPD began staffing officers to more adequately address the increased calls police were receiving later at night, Klett said.
He said, however, the number of noise complaints has dropped, perhaps because there are fewer house parties now that bars are open until 2 a.m.
San Marcos' situation may be different than Buda's and Kyle's, he said. The neighborhoods near San Marcos' downtown area are more buffered from the bar and nightclub scene, and the city has larger clusters of drinking establishments than Kyle, he said.
"Anytime you have a larger concentration of intoxicated people like we have with a number of different venues problems typically tend to flow from that," Klett said. "That's why we try to be vigilant."
Councilwoman Becky Selbera, who was the sole member of Kyle City Council to vote against the measure, said she worried noise from the entertainment venues would spill out to the residential properties.
"I don't believe Kyle should be like South Congress or Sixth Street right now," Selbera said, referring to two of Austin's nightlife hubs. "I think [the ordinance] will give a lot of headaches to people sleeping at 2 a.m."
Public debate occurred last year in Buda concerning a noise ordinance that placed limits on the decibels that could be emitted from either a home or business. Restrictions are tighter at night and on weekdays.
The noise ordinance passed in December 2013 with two dissenting votes. Mayor Todd Ruge said he voted against the ordinance because he felt the decibel restrictions needed further studying. The ordinance was based on a measure the city of Georgetown passed, officials said.
Councilwoman Eileen Altmiller said she voted against the ordinance because she did not agree with an amendment allowing decibel restrictions to kick in at 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as opposed to 9 p.m.
Although the noise ordinance continues to be a subject on the minds of some downtown residents and business owners, Ruge said the will of the council was made clear with the 5-2 vote last year, and the ordinance will not be a matter City Hall will take up again unless he hears a request from two or three council members.
Tommy Poer, who has resided in Buda's Old Town neighborhood for the past 40 years, said the proliferation of bars goes against the will of the citizens who wanted the city to retain its small-town charm. Poer said even with the decibel regulations in place, on some nights she can hear amplified music booming over her TV.
"We've just become a bar town," Poer said. "The young crowd may like it. And, yes, it brings money into the city. But we survive very well without the money from the bars."