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City to Redefine Parks' Alcohol-Free Zones

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

There are parts of Austin parks where you can drink alcohol without a permit, but sometimes the rules aren’t so clear. That’s the basis of the City of Austin's decision to redefine some of the parks’ alcohol-free zones.

Let’s start with the rules as they stand now: Where can I not drink beer in any Austin park?

“Right now, you still could not be sitting on a playscape, drinking a beer. You could not be sitting in the swimming pool drinking a beer. You see what I’m saying?” asks Pat Fuller with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

As Fuller explains it, you can’t consume alcohol on or in park features – like swimming pools or recreation centers, where kids are often hanging out. But you can stay in the park, and just step outside the boundaries of these places, and swig away. Yet, Fuller says, determining these boundaries is often an issue for Austin Police.

“The officer comes up, the lady says ‘That guy’s drinking a beer in close proximity to this playscape.’ Well, when APD looks at the law, it goes, 'Well, they’re legal,'” he says.

So the Parks Department is in the process of clarifying the rules. The proposal would place a 100-foot no-alcohol zone around all city park features – including pools, restrooms, parking lots and sports fields. The ordinance still has to make its way through boards and commissions, but should come to the City Council for approval in the spring. Just in time to crack open a beer in the park – where it’s legal, of course.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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