Austin business owners call 6th Street safety meeting with city, APD, TABC

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of downtown business and property owners fed up with the violence in the area met with Austin Police, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and Councilwoman Kathie Tovo Monday to discuss concerns of gun violence downtown.

This meeting took place outside the bimonthly meetings that occur as part of the Downtown Austin Alliance.

Within the span of two weeks between Halloween and mid-November, two people were shot inside The Lodge on East Sixth Street. On Nov. 18, a person was shot on Sixth and Neches.

“It’s hard to get people to eat at your restaurant when they’re afraid of what might happen to them,” said Gary Manley, owner of Iron Cactus.

Jeff Greenwalt, Austin Police Department’s downtown commander, told KXAN meetings like these are imperative to finding a solution to downtown safety. He said, “it takes a community to change systems and policies,” and input from all impacted parties is productive.

Greenwalt said 174 guns have been seized from the downtown patrol district year-to-date. That includes five that were taken between Nov. 23 and 29.

“Violence has escalated, really escalated in recent months,” said Councilwoman Tovo, whose district includes downtown. “I think it was a productive conversation; it’s one of many,” she said, adding it’s not unprecedented for groups to request meetings like this. She expects a full report of ideas on her desk this week from those working on official recommendations on how to create a safer Sixth Street.

Tovo, Manley and Greenwalt said TABC spent a chunk of time during the meeting addressing how it goes about investigating violent crimes that occur inside bars.

A TABC spokesperson said the entity is still investigating the shootings that happened inside The Lodge. The organization can only suspend or revoke a bar’s liquor license if there is evidence staff enabled violence by encouraging fights, not stopping fights quickly enough or knowingly allowing patrons to flash guns.

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