|(Seguin) -- The Seguin City Council is wrestling with the idea of whether or not it should allow bars to stay open later inside the city limits. |
The council discussed allowing bars to stay open to 2 a.m. each night. It would be two hours later than what's allowed Sundays to Fridays, and one hour later than what's allowed on Saturday. The issue was brought forward by the Warehouse, a local bar and restaurant on South Austin Street in downtown Seguin.
Warehouse general manager Josh Stroud says they made the request based on what they are seeing with their business. He says they are losing customers to other communities because the city currently requires that they stop serving at midnight on most nights, and at 1 a.m. on Saturdays.
"We like the option to stay until two. It does say seven days a week. I can guarantee you we won't be staying open until two on seven days a week. The biggest reason that we've made this request is that we see a huge amount of our crowd leave on Saturdays around 11 o'clock. They'll head to the San Marcos area where they're open until two or two Cowboys in San Antonio or Bluebonnet that's in Selma. What we'd like to do is keep that money in town. We want to make sure we get the tax revenue staying in town," said Stroud
Some members of the council said they've already heard from people who are concerned that extending the hours of local bars would lead to more people getting drunk and driving on local streets. Stroud says that's not likely to happen. He pointed to the Warehouse's operation, and said that they are trained to make sure they don't over serve. He says that's the case regardless of the time of day.
"I know there's a concern of an increase of inebriation. That's no concern of ours. We have .3 TBC with a license that we have to have, not to mention each one of our bartenders -- if a person gets to a certain level be it three o'clock in the afternoon or two o'clock in the morning, you stop them when they need to be stopped. We're liable if anything goes past that point. Extending the hours is not to increase the amount of people that are becoming intoxicated. It's just to give us the ability to keep those people in town. We feel it's safer if we have people, especially local residents that are looking to go somewhere nice which I think we presented downtown -- instead of them going out to Selma and then having to come down I-10 which is very dangerous, much less at night to keep them in town where they're able to just travel a little bit shorter distance to their house," said Stroud.
Seguin Mayor Don Keil says he's heard from some downtown business owners who are concerned about the extended hours for the Warehouse. He says those concerns are all things that the council will ultimately have to consider should they eventually decided to move forward with the proposed change.
"I have had some comments from some of the people who have offices downtown that are quite concerned about this and I don't know whether the reports are true or not but they talk about finding condoms and vomit, empty beer cans all over their sidewalks when they come to work on Monday. I don't know, that's just an incidental report," said Keil.
Stroud defended the Warehouse's operation in downtown Seguin. He says they work hard to try to make sure that their patrons don't leave a mess behind in the downtown area.
"We are one of the only places I know that will send people out that go out and walk around our entire building to make sure if there is any trash. We don't allow drinks or anything outside of our building, but we do know that people bring things before they come into our facility. So we do walk our area with two guys that do that to make sure to keep that area clean," said Stroud.
Mayor Kiel says he understands why the bar would want to stay open later, but he says he also understands why some people might be concerned that they will be serving alcohol longer. He says he's not sure this is a good idea.
Councilman Chris Rangel says forcing bars to close at midnight may not seem like a big deal to some, but he says to people who go out -- especially on the weekend -- a midnight closing could be a very early night for some of those people.
"You have to understand that people -- the businesses in the area have been concerned but I will tell you that a lot of people when they are planning their weekend and are going out -- some don't get started until 9:30 or 10 p.m. so that's why they plan on going to San Marcos and San Antonio and everywhere else when they can be here close to home," said Rangel.
The change would not just allow the Warehouse to serve until 2 a.m. each night, but any other bar could also seek a late hour permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). That was the biggest concern for Councilwoman Fonda Mathis, who says this isn't just a downtown issue. She says this is an issue that impacts the entire city. Mathis says that's why she thinks the city needs to get more feedback from the public before it takes the issue any further. The rest of the council, including Councilwoman Jet Crabb, agreed. Crabb says they need to have a hearing so that the public can fully address their thoughts, both good and bad, on the issue.
"I too have had some people seek me out and make comments about this and there was one letter that came across that was very explicit about the concerns about the extra dividends that they are finding as they are going into their businesses. I think a public hearing is really an essential thing to this. I think this is something that if we don't invite more of the public to come in and speak as to their feelings on this, I think that would be a very unwise thing so I am all for a public hearing so that we can find out how the folks feel about these extended hours and I understand the need -- I mean you want to keep the people here, we want to keep them in Seguin but we also want to be responsible to the people who put all this up here and I think we need to find out how they feel," said Crabb.
The council agreed to soon host a public hearing. No date was set during Tuesday's council meeting, but the hearing could take place during the council's next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 6.