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Booze Sales Outside Barton Springs Pool Aren't Happening. For Now. Maybe.

Michael Minasi
Drunk swimmers would create an additional hazard for lifeguards at Barton Springs Pool.

Zilker Park has a lot of things going for it. Namely, Barton Springs Pool.

Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department thought allowing beer and wine sales at the concession stand near the pool would be another added benefit to the iconic park and generate some extra money.

On Tuesday night, the Zilker Café was set to get the go-ahead on booze sales from the citizen-led Parks and Recreation Board, but the board voted it down, effectively scrapping the city's plan.

For now. Maybe.

Nancy Barnard, who voted against the permit, said she gets the idea of having a beer or glass of wine after hopping in Barton Springs. And while consumption would be limited to the area around the café, she said it still posed safety risks.

The site plan for Zilker Café.
Austin Parks and Recreation Department
The site plan for Zilker Café.

"I think it would be really great if everyone did restrict their drinking to after they went swimming," she said. "But, I think, the very fact that it’s so close, there’s a really good chance that people are going to have a drink or two before they go into the pool. That’s my major concern.”

Board members and Austinites who testified at the meeting also expressed concerns about overcrowding if the café sells alcohol and liability issues. On top of that, perennially overworked lifeguards argued boozy swimmers would only add to the difficulty of their jobs.

But the board's 4-2 vote against a plan backed by the Parks and Recreation Department may not be the last straw for booze sales at Barton Springs.

Board member Nina Rinaldi said she's been told by the city that the permit may be brought back to the board because of confusion over the process; it could head to the Planning Commission in August. KUT reached out to the city clerk for clarification on the vote (and the subsequent confusion), but has not heard back.

Rinaldi, who voted in favor of the permit, said she gets the argument against it, but noted alcohol sales have been allowed before at places like Alta's Café on Lady Bird Lake.

"I think it's great that we had a lot of folks sharing those safety concerns about it, because those are really, really important," she said. "We need to take that seriously, but the reason why I was comfortable supporting the conditional use permit is because serving beer and wine ... is sort of a tested model in our parks system already."

Austin Parks and Recreation told KUT it's reviewing the city code to see how it can proceed.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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