City reinforcing water conservation rules for Austin restaurants

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Beginning Monday, Austin is tightening its rules on our water usage because of drought and dangerously low lake levels. Many of Stage 1 restrictions have to do with when you can water your lawn. 

The city is also reinforcing how restaurants use water to help customers cool down. Austin Water says those rules have been in effect since 2012, a year after the 2011 drought.

According to the city, restaurants may not serve water unless requested by a customer, and patio misters at commercial properties, including bars and restaurants, may only operate between 4 p.m. and midnight.

Many restaurants told KXAN they weren’t contacted by the city about these rules. Some said they knew about the rules that were in effect six years ago, but didn’t know they were still in place. 

Emily O’Connor, general manager of Juliet Italian Kitchen, said they now have the rules posted around the restaurant, so the staff can see them. 

“The misters really affect us because it’s really hot during the daytime,” she said. “Luckily we have fans out there. If people are very concerned about the heat, we try to sit them at a table right next to the fans. We do whatever we possibly can.”

O’Conner said all summer, their waitlist for a table inside has been long. “It’s been like that all summer just because it’s been such a hot summer,” she said. “People’s first choice usually isn’t sitting outside.”

She expects lunchtime waitlists for indoor seating to be longer on busy days without the misters. 

Restaurant managers said they will also explain to customers the restrictions in hopes that the customers will understand not giving them water right away isn’t a sign of bad service.

“We pride ourselves really on exceeding people’s expectations on service,” said Shane Kullberg, manager at Home Slice Pizza. “We don’t really want anybody to have to ask for anything. We want to just be there and have those things for them, so it affects us a little bit.”

“We certainly have ice cold water for people when they ask for it,” Kullberg explained. “But otherwise we will make sure that we’re not wasting any water by bringing someone water that isn’t going to drink it.”

The city told us they asked the Texas Restaurant Association to remind businesses about the permanent water restrictions.

Now that the need for conservation is greater, the city is evaluating how they can enforce the rules effectively. 

If they get 311 calls about violations, they say they would first issue a warning. For a repeat offender, there may be a fine.

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