Have you seen the construction going up for the new Torchy’s Tacos flagship on South Congress at the old Fran’s Hamburgers location? Austin Business Journal is reporting that Torchy’s plans to open their newest location during the second week of January. The most controversial aspect of the Torchy’s project has been the chain’s plans for a full bar on-site and application for an alcohol license variance due to the proximity of Fulmore Middle School across the street. The SRCC supports our neighborhood school and the AISD in opposing the requested variance.
While adjacent licensed establishments (C-Boys, Magnolia Cafe) have been grandfathered into current ordinances, the proposed Torchy’s site will sit within 300 feet of the middle school prohibiting it from obtaining a liquor license unless a variance is granted. The variance application has been an SRCC issue beginning in October last year due to our residents’ concerns around alcohol sales near students and other impacts to the immediate community. The AISD School Board has maintained a policy opposing waivers to the existing ordinance. A motion to align with AISD and oppose Torchy’s waiver request was passed by SRCC general body at the same October meeting. Our neighbors at Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association (BCNA) and Austin Interfaith are also opposed to Torchy’s request.
Some local online publications write about the variance like it is a foregone conclusion, but Torchy’s website now includes a short post describing various actions it plans to take to address community concerns as well as a petition to support the variance. Torchy’s move for an alcohol variance follows on the heels of another local alcohol consumption waiver that was granted by the City Council this month over SRCC opposition for a new establishment across the street from the Texas School for the Deaf.
SRCC invites all neighbors and residents to submit any questions or comments to email@example.com. An update on Torchy’s variance request process will also be provided at next Monday’s general membership meeting.
Background on AISD’s Position
SRCC’s position is rooted in its support for the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) consistent policy to oppose alcohol sales near its schools. As noted during a 2013 waiver process in South Austin, AISD maintains “alcohol sales near schools is not generally conducive to a positive and safe learning environment” and issues letters of opposition in each variance request involving an AISD school (typically occurring around six times a year).
Section 8.3.4 of the Austin City Code expressly prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages within 300 feet of a public school without an application for an Alcoholic Beverage Waiver. Establishments with an alcohol license and in operation prior to enactment of the amendment are permitted to continue operating without a waiver.