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Commissioners okay later bar hours for rural areas

Drinking establishments in rural areas of Hays County now have the chance to keep their doors open until 2 a.m. after commissioners extended alcohol sale hours last week.

The change, approved by a unanimous vote April 11, allows businesses that have an existing mixed beverage permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that are located  in unincorporated areas of the county not deemed dry to apply for a late-hours permit.

By doing so, businesses will be allowed to sell alcohol until 2 a.m. Hays County ordinances previously required drinking establishments to close up shop at midnight, per TABC rules.

The commissioners’ decision applies a rule change cities along the Interstate 35 corridor have enacted in recent years.

San Marcos city leaders approved extending alcohol sale hours until 2 a.m. in 2009; Kyle city leaders approved an ordinance extending sale hours in the city in 2014.

In 2015, 58 percent of Buda voters approved a proposition extending alcohol sales until 2 a.m. in that city.

According to one county official, if an establishment is outside of city limits, they’re at a “disadvantage of competing against the city.”

By extending hours, officials believed it would equalize business in the area.

But the decision was partially influenced by an application submitted by Robert Badger, who owns Buck’s Backyard, located in the city of Buda’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Badger said April 11 he called TABC before signing a lease and said it wasn’t going to be a problem to obtain a liquor license for his business.

But Badger said his business, which has 200 to 300 people in the building listening to music during the weekends, could only stay open until midnight. He sought to extend hours to “equalize” things.

Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said the purpose of the ordinance was to “help this man out and help his business.”

“This is answering a question that hadn’t come up before,” Cobb said. “It’s come up and we have to solve it.”

Ray Whisenant, Hays County Pct. 2 commissioners, said wedding venues and restaurants in the rural areas that have mixed beverage permits could be impacted.   

But Whisenant also wanted to “make it clear” that by extending the hours, responsibility extends to license holders who seek late hour permits to protect citizens.

He later said the ordinance would add responsibility for law enforcement.

“It assigns a greater responsibly that people you are serving are served properly and not to the extent to where they provide harm to themselves or the public,” Whisenant said.

Conley voted in favor of the measure, but also asked county staff to provide an inventory of drinking establishments in unincorporated areas.

Travis Tindol, co-owner of the Hays City Store, which resides in an unincorporated area between Kyle and Driftwood, said based on their clientele and location, there hasn’t been request to stay open later.

Tindol said he wasn’t sure how the ordinance could impact business in the county.

“It doesn’t do a whole lot for us and our business concept,” Tindol said. “The latest we’re going to be open is midnight. It’s just not in our business concept for later hours.”

Jeff Barnett, Kyle Police Department chief, said officers haven’t experienced a “significant impact” on operations after city council extended alcohol sale hours.

Only two existing businesses, Room 111 Parlor and Dark Horse Tavern on Center Street, have late-hours permits from the TABC.

While there are occasional calls for service to the downtown area, where many of the city’s bars are located, there hasn’t been a drastic increase in driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests.

Barnett said the impact of Kyle’s extended hours law allows for business to stay in the Kyle area.

TABC also tries to educate and hold accountable businesses to make sure they aren’t over-serving, Barnett said.

“Officers do walkthroughs in the bars on the weekends,” Barnett said. “They walk through and remind people the police department is out there.”

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