City Council resolution looks to change parking requirements at bars

Austin City Council approved a resolution last week to start looking at changes to parking requirements at bars. 

The resolution, sponsored by District 3 Council Member Jose Velasquez, says eliminating parking requirements can help curb drunk driving, increase economic activity, and make transportation more efficient.

It reads in part, "current building standards require that a property of 2,500- square-foot must accommodate at least 25 drivers, and bars in excess of 10,000- square-feet must have sufficient room to store a minimum of 400 cars."

The resolution says eliminating parking requirements for bars can encourage alternative modes of transportation and reduce the number of drunk driving cases.

It reads, "current parking minimums often require more parking than what is currently needed and conflict with the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan’s (ASMP) stated goal of a 50/50 mode share by 2039, where 50% of commuters are driving alone and 50% are using other modes of transportation" and that, "maintaining on-site parking requirements for bars can facilitate and incentivize driving over using other forms of transportation for bar patrons, and work against Austin’s efforts to reduce car dependency."

"The parking requirements I think are kind of archaic," Allen Demling, ownder of Low Down Lounge, said. "I think nowadays it's not as important to have a parking lot for your customers to park in, because people get to places in much different ways than they used to."

"I think ride-share, especially when you're going out, is super important," Sam Mittenthal, who frequents the East Sixth Street bar district, said. "You're lowering the likelihood of any type of drunk driving incidents to escalate, and it's just better for the environment overall."

The resolution also says doing away with parking minimums case increase economic activity.

It reads, "parking construction can cost a business between $10,000 to more than $40,000 per space, a significant amount that can negatively impact a business’ bottom line, or net income for a certain period."

"We have considered expanding, we have considered checking out other places to open bars and parking requirements are always a hassle," Demling said.


Some people say they don't think changing parking will help prevent drunk driving, instead pushing for public transit expansion.

"Parking is already hard as it is down here, people that want to drive are going to find a way to drive down here," Valerie Bangura, who frequents the area, said. "Maybe having longer hours - also having the train available on Sundays for people to just hop on and hop off."

Bar owners and other groups will be part of the conversation about parking changes.

District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly added an amendment to have stakeholder meetings.

"I do think the city should do something about having lots that are for people who actually work in the area," Demling said.

The resolution calls on the city manager to come up with a draft ordinance for consideration by mid-October.