AUSTIN (KXAN) — A City Council resolution calls for eliminating certain parking lot restrictions for bars.

“Eliminating parking requirements for bars can encourage alternative modes of transportation and reduce the incidence of drunk driving,” the resolution reads.

District 3 City Council Member Jose Velasquez is behind the measure. He said the following about the motive behind it:

Throughout my campaign trail, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with many folks in the neighborhood, including bar owners who voiced the issue of required parking at cocktail lounges. After several conversations, a few things became clear to me; first and foremost is the incentivization of drunk driving and how imperative it is for the city to ensure that we do our part to reduce DWIs and unnecessary loss in our community. 

Second, the current policy is not aligned with Austin’s push to encourage alternate forms of transportation. Third, we are making it more difficult and expensive for small business owners to jump-start and sustain their ventures. If we want to embrace all things that make Austin unique, we need to reduce barriers for small business owners and keep our residents and visitors safe. 

Council Member Jose Velasquez, District 3

According to current building standards, properties that are at least 2,500 square feet must accommodate at least 25 drivers. Bars with 10,000 square feet or more must have enough room for a minimum of 400 cars.

The proposal would still require ADA parking options, but would eliminate other parking requirements.

The draft of the resolution states parking construction can cost businesses between $10,000 and $40,000 per space.

“Decreasing parking requirements for bars and restaurants could also encourage the growth of local businesses and increase economic activity in the City,” the proposal reads.

Charles Ferraro, owner of The Volstead Lounge and Hotel Vegas, supports the idea, and thinks limited parking will help deter drunk driving.

“If it becomes more and more inconvenient, anyone who’s kind of on the fence on whether they wanted to take their car or hope into a rideshare. This could be that extra nudge to make people not want to use their automobile on a night out,” he said. “My main concern as a bar owner is that everyone who comes into one of my spots gets home safely.”

Some employees from other bars told KXAN they like the parking lots, and are unsure how the lack of spaces would truly combat drunk driving.

If the resolution passes, the city manager would review what code amendments would be necessary to make the loosened parking restrictions possible, and prevent those findings back to City Council in October.