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Possible ordinance could allow sidewalk cafe-style service for Victoria bars

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 22, 2012 at 3:22 a.m.
Updated Aug. 23, 2012 at 3:23 a.m.

Bartender Samantha Cabot no longer serves customers seated outside 77901 bar. State law requires that all mixed beverages be consumed on the premises, eliminating the bar's sidewalk business along Main Street.

For more information on the Victoria Main Street Program's Downtown Pub Crawl, click here.

State liquor laws meant a change of venue for those used to sidewalk service at one Victoria bar.

Management at Victoria's 77901 Bar, 221 S. Main St., were recently asked to cease serving wine to customers at tables outside the establishment.

The issue came to light when management at another location asked the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission if they, too, could serve drinks outside, said Sgt. John Mann, with the TABC's Corpus Christi and Victoria field operations enforcement division. When the commission looked into the issue, he said it learned the city had no ordinance in place to allow such outdoor service.

State law requires that all mixed beverages be consumed on the premises of the place that serves it, Mann said.

Still, the law allows a city to enact ordinances to enable permit holders to serve such beverages in a public area. Mixed beverage permit holders with food and beverage permits can also seek ordinances to serve alcoholic beverages in small patio areas not contiguous to their property.

Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said the issue had never come up in his presence during city council meetings. It is something the council would be willing to consider, however, if business owners and community members approached them about it.

"It is true that we want to make this business-friendly, and we are very interested in entertainment at venues downtown," he said. "I think it's a wonderful endeavor, but ... I would like to hear from anyone in the general public who has an interest."

The issue is one the Victoria Main Street Program might also look into.

Louise Hull Patillo, the program's board president, said Main Street's long-term goal is to see more opportunities for people to enjoy downtown Victoria in general. A Saturday pub crawl, for instance, is one move in that direction.

She said she was unsure what it would take to push for drinks to be made available in sidewalk cafe settings, but planned to approach the board about it.

"While I can't answer for them, I would expect they would be in favor of encouraging council to act," Hull Patillo said. "I personally love outdoor venues, and so I would like to see us encourage the ability to have more things downtown and outside."

Jacob Bowman, bar manager for the Downtown Bar and Grill at 125 E. Constitution St., said he thought serving drinks in sidewalk areas could mean increased business to downtown bars.

"Maybe not in the summertime because it's so hot," he said with a laugh. "But anywhere outside is always nice to have people sit down, relax and have a good time."

Bowman said the move could also improve the area's aesthetics. While the sidewalk in front of his business once boasted flower pots, he said the city recently removed them.

"This might help," he said.

As for 77901 Bar, Mann said management took care of the issue as soon as the TABC brought it to their attention.

There were no hard feelings, he said, and no adversarial confrontation.

"It was voluntary compliance at its best," he said. "I don't know if they're considering an ordinance later on but, until that happens, we must enforce it."

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