I present two stories, with very different outcomes, from two consecutive days, regarding the vendors along Barton Springs Road, and the City of Austin’s Public Assembly Code Enforcement team (P.A.C.E.), in the lead up to the 2009 Austin City Limits, music festival.
At approximately 12:30 PM, on Thursday, Oct 1st, the day before ACL 2009 began (and one day prior to the Oct 2nd KVUE news report, below) Austin City Permits received a call from the owner of 3 business locations hosting temporary vendors along Barton Springs Road during the Austin City Limits music festival. All of the vendors had been issued Warning Tickets that morning, and had been told to pack it up and clear out, or face fines of $1,500 at 5PM that afternoon, when the PACE Code Enforcement Team would return to issue official Citations.
I told my client that I would see what I could do, and by 4 PM that afternoon, all of my client’s locations had the required Temporary Use Permits in hand. The applications had been properly reviewed by the required City of Austin departments, processed, and paid for. The final solution came with the cooperation of the Austin Fire Department’s Inspection Services Division, so that everything was inspected for safe operation by Battalion Chief Don Smith … and Voila! All those vendors were able to keep their set ups in place, throughout the festival. Another satisfied client.
The following day, at least one business owner, up the street, had a completely different experience. That’s the story the reporter highlighted:
“Just outside the gates of ACL, business owners and vendors were hit with expensive tickets. It’s new to ACL and came without any warning” – Noelle Newton / KVUE News
Update: Michael Corcoran posted the following on the Statesman’s Austin Music Source blog about 3 hours later.
“Police shut down Guero’s outdoor stage”
By Michael Corcoran | Saturday, April 10, 2010, 12:32 PM
“Rob Lipincott of Guero’s Taco Bar said he’s not being defiant, but “trying to keep my empoyees in jobs” by hosting live music today after being shut down last night for not having a building permit for his outdoor stage. Lippincott said the city approved his site plan correction Wednesday, but that data is not yet in the computer. The amendment allows the stage, but Lippincott probably won’t receive his building permit until next week.
The shutdown was enforced by the P.A.C.E. team”
Last night, Friday, April 9th, the Austin PACE team decided to shut down the Outdoor Music Venue area of Guero’s, at the beginning of the biggest event weekend of the year for the South Congress Ave area.
This has occurred in spite of the fact that Friday was exactly one day after Guero’s Engineer, Sergio Lazano, gained approval on the Site Plan Correction, a major step in process required to obtain a Building Permit of SOME type (see “promises”, below), in order to operate the existing outdoor music venue within an 85 dB sound level limit.
The immediate need, and big question is, can Guero’s continue to have music today, as planned?
PACE (Public Assembly Code Enforcement) declared that they were going to “shut down the whole operation” meaning, including the Restaurant, if the music was not turned off immediately. They issued a citation for no Building Permit for the stage.
I am sitting here, reviewing the video of the City Council meeting of March 12, 2009, where the Mayor Will Wynn, City Council members, and attorney Brent Lloyd expressed the various ways (none of which have come to pass) that they would work with Mr. Lippincott, and Guero’s, possibly crafting new Use categories, or figuring out ways of separating Restaurant and Live Music functions into separate Use areas, in search of a solution to the problem that the authors of the proposed ordinance introduced when they DIRECTED the 70 dB limit to be referenced, from the Zoning section of the Code, in the passage of the rushed ordinance.
Guero’s has been applying itself to a solution. Mr. Lippincoot’s engineer, Mr. Lazano, had family emergencies to attend to in Mexico, (Mr. Lazano’s brother was kidnapped, which, understandably, set the project back a number of months!) which understandably interrupted the work that he and his firm were doing on the important first step, the Site Plan Correction.
Now, the day after a Site Plan Approval, a MAJOR step in the process, someone on the PACE team, or at Code Enforcement directing the PACE team, has decided to challenge the agreement that has been in place, at the discretion of the Building Officials involved, while we are all in the midst of trying to figure out a solution to our city’s outdoor music regulatory needs.
The fact is that, the City has not come through on any of the commitments and promises made at that March 12th meeting, yet Guero’s is being expected to navigate a minefield of regulatory difficulty, if it wishes to both comply with the Code, and have live music under the big oaks.
No new Use categories have been created, to address the need for an “Outdoor Music Venue” Use, distinct from Restaurant Use, or Cocktail Lounge Use. No solution has been put in place that does not require a Change of Use to Cocktail Lounge, which Greg Gurnsey points out as not-so-easy, in this same video.