Kyle council to look at downtown bar hours

The closing time for bars in Kyle at 2 a.m. could get a review, or at the very least a covert or overt review from the TABC could be in the works.

The Kyle City Council, at its Dec. 3 meeting, voted to direct Police Chief Jeff Barnett to ask the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission (TABC) to do an investigation of bars in the downtown area and report back with recommendations.

The issue was raised by council member Robert Rizo and it was based, he said, on complaints from other local businesses about people hanging around after hours and the presence of beer cans, bottles and other litter downtown. “I’ve started paying attention to downtown, noticing late hours and that we’re starting to get an element around Kyle that’s not exactly what we wanted.”

In particular, Rizo said, he had observed confrontations with police officers and raised the question of people driving drunk after leaving the area. Rizo asked Barnett if officers question those they interact with about where they had been drinking.

Barnett said that question was a “routine question we ask as part of the process — where have you been, did you have any alcohol, how long ago was that.” Barnett said though he doesn’t have numbers to back it up, his officers encounter more suspected drunk drives on the interstate than near downtown.

Kyle alcohol sales used to end at midnight, and discussion turned to what would happen if that was reinstated.

Assistant City Manager James Earp revisited the discussion when the city extended the hours of alcohol sales. He recalled the argument that if Kyle bars closed at midnight while others in nearby cities remained open, people would be encouraged to visit them after the local establishments shut their doors. “Keep in mind there was a lobby from one of the (bar) owners and other things factored in. It seemed to be the argument that resonated most was everyone else was at (still open until) 2 and we’re at 12.”

The idea of calling in TABC was brought up by Council member Alex Villalobos. “We could have a discussion with TABC and have them come down and monitor what’s going on,” noting that is something the agency could do both covertly and overtly, “first for an assessment and then to take action. It’s something we have at our request, a matter of making a phone call.”

Barnett said that, so far this year, the KPD has arrested 124 people for public intoxication and 243 for driving while intoxicated. “I’m not in any way insinuating those are from these bars” in the downtown area, he said. While most come from the interstate, the numbers sometimes don’t reflect that either, because the location is given as the place where the suspect motorists stops — which is frequently after taking an exit ramp from I-35. “Can we get a general picture? Absolutely, but it’s not 100 percent accurate.,” Barnett said.

The eventual vote to ask Barnett to enlist the TABC was unanimous, but prior to it, Mayor Travis Mitchell voiced doubt. “My only hesitation is, I’ve heard quite a few stories of TABC and from people involved in bars, and they can deem TASB as being quite aggressive … Ultimately, if Chief says they do good work to get what we need from the administrative level I’m good with it.’

Koch said he agreed with the mayor. “I can just say I agree with you, Mayor, … I don’t think the bars are going to be that enthusiastic about us asking TABC to go visit them.”

At which point the mayor chuckled and interrupted, saying “better that than changing their hours to midnight right away.”

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