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City Council Is Exploring Why You Can Drink On Some Austin Streets And Not Others

A sign noting that public consumption of alcohol is forbidden.
Austin Price for KUT

Austin City Council wants the city manager to dig into the rules that determine where people can and cannot walk down the street with an open container of beer.

Public consumption has been illegal in six sections of the city since city leaders instituted the rules back in the '90s.

Now, City Council wants to see if the laws are working – or even necessary at all. Members have asked city officials to look into past no-public consumption ordinances enacted in Austin. They want to know why the policies were instituted, as well as whether they’ve served a public function.

Three areas where public consumption is currently illegal are on the city’s East Side, historically home to black and Latino families. In a resolution passed Thursday, City Council says it is committed to fighting “racist and discriminatory policies” like the 1928 City of Austin Master Plan, as well as the federal redlining of East Austin neighborhoods.

RELATED | Is It Really Legal To Walk Down The Street With A Beer In Austin Neighborhoods?

The bill was sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and council members whose districts contain no-consumption zones: Natasha Harper-Madison, Paige Ellis, Katie Tovo and Pio Renteria.

Council has also asked for details on citations issued and arrests made in these areas over the last 10 years, along with any demographic information available for those offenses.

In 2013 and 2014, the Austin Police Department issued more than 1,500 citations for drinking outside. Police wrote fewer than 400 citations in 2016 and 2017

The other three zones include most of downtown, The Drag and an area from Bouldin Creek up to Lady Bird Lake. In many of these areas, glass containers are prohibited, too.

Council is looking for recommendations on whether the current no consumption areas should be changed. An update is expected in late February 2020.

Jerry Quijano is the local All Things Considered anchor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.
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