Dripping Springs City Council unanimously voted April 9 to deny a variance that would have allowed Truly Texas Grown Wines to operate its online alcohol distributer business within 300 feet of a Dripping Springs ISD school boundary.
The owner of Truly Texas Grown Wines sought a variance to overrule a policy prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 300-feet of a school property. Truly Texas Grown Wines aimed to open its facility at 391 Sportsplex Drive, Dripping Springs, just 289 feet from Walnut Springs Elementary School.
According to Truly Texas Grown Wines’ business plan, the facility would not have sold wine to walk-in customers, nor would it have served alcohol; it would have served as a fulfillment center for online orders.
Jon Thompson, a representative for the business, said that the rule prohibiting alcohol sales was intended for bars and establishments serving or selling alcohol to walk-in customers, and that Texas law had not kept up with the reality of online alcohol sales. He also pointed to the council’s ability to issue a variance in the event that it is “in the community’s best interest,” and business owner Larry Epp cited projected financial impact as being in the community’s best interest.
After hearing public comment—including a letter of support from the property’s landlord, a local chocolate producer—the council discussed the requested variance at length. Two council members, Travis Crow and Taline Manassian, said they viewed the 300 foot ordinance as clear-cut. Manassian took issue with approving a variance for reasons stated by the applicants—that the state’s laws had not kept up with the reality of online sales.
“Maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but I don’t find that very compelling,” Manassian said.
It was also noted during the discussion that DSISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing had given the applicants verbal acknowledgment of his acceptance of the business.
The vote to deny the variance was unanimous; however, the council discussed a grey area in how to measure the distance between businesses and schools that could potentially subvert the need for a variance in the future.
The council also voted 4-1 to table Truly Texas Grown Wine’s request for a use permit to operate a warehouse on the Sportsplex Drive property until May. The applicant said he would not benefit from the permit without the variance allowing the business to sell alcohol online.