AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bicycle shop in downtown Austin is walking away from a $314,000 contract with the City of Austin.
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop announced on its Twitter and Facebook pages Wednesday night:
“In the context of the current evaluation of community policing in Austin, we have decided to no longer purchase, re-sell and service police-issue Trek bikes and accessories under a City of Austin RFP [Request For Proposal] the shop was previously awarded.”
The downtown bike shop’s current contract with the city began in 2019.
It’s a 3-year agreement with two renewal options. At the time, the city was choosing between Mellow Johnny’s bid and another bike shop’s bid.
The city ended up going with Mellow Johnny’s proposal, in which Austin police agreed to spend more than $300,000 over five years to purchase bicycles from the shop. The agreement was approved as part of the consent agenda by City Council in October 2019.
So far, the city spent about $52,000 under the agreement.
Mellow Johnny’s is ending the deal only one year in.
In the 2019 document that recommended the Austin City Council approve the purchase agreement, city officials wrote:
“The contract is for the annual supply of mountain bikes used by the Austin Police Department (APD) Downtown Area Command Unit. Patrol officers are deployed on bicycles 24/7 and use this mode of transportation to manage large crowds during special events and to conduct routine patrols of residential and business districts in the downtown area.
Patrolling on bikes is a safe and cost-effective way to improve mobility and efficiently respond to calls for service in the downtown area. Bike patrol officers can easily navigate areas of downtown limited by traffic congestion and are able to investigate areas that may not be easily accessible by patrol car. Bike patrol officers are also often viewed by the public to be more approachable which enhances community policing efforts with citizens and visitors to Austin.”
Austin police officers use bicycles to patrol the downtown area. They’ve been seen using bikes during events like South By Southwest.
More recently, Austin police officers used their bicycles to keep protestors in one area at Black Lives Matter protests downtown.
According to a now-deleted Facebook post, that’s why the bike shop wanted to stop doing business with police. The post was written by an account with the same name as an Austin police officer whose name is on the contract with Mellow Johnny’s. It said shop employees didn’t like that the bikes were being used as a crowd management tool during the protests.
In its statement, however, the bike shop didn’t include any specific references to the recent protests, but said it came to the decision after evaluating “community policing in Austin.”
It wrote, “Businesses can no longer be non-participants in the communities they serve. We chose what we think will do the most to suture these divides and place our community on the right side of history.”
It also said in the Facebook and Twitter post, Mellow Johnny’s isn’t against police, saying, “We are not anti-police. We do believe our local police force will protect us from the very threats we are receiving right now.”
According to the statement, the entire Mellow Johnny’s employee group was engaged “in this dialogue,” and they “delved deep into our community to understand how we could best do our part to keep our customers safe and this city moving in the right direction.”
Other APD contracts
Austin Police contract with many different local businesses. City records show about 10 current agreements.
Two of those companies told KXAN they’re keeping their contracts with APD.
Alamo BMW’s general manager said in an email:
“We back the blue 100% and think they deserve the full support of the people they protect, particularly under the current circumstances. We will keep any contract they award us.”
Lucille’s Catering said they provide food for the Citizen’s Academy, which they believe is an important tool, now more than ever, to build trust between the police and the people of Austin.
Another Mellow Johnny’s responds
A Mellow Johnny’s store in Fort Worth posted on its Facebook Thursday, clarifying that it and the Austin Mellow Johnny’s are under separate management and ownership. The Fort Worth store made clear it is not “connected in any way to the decisions made by the Austin location’s management.”
“Mellow Johnny’s Fort Worth supports our community as well as responsible and ethical law enforcement,” it wrote.