WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas - The City of Taylor has changed a lot the last few years.
“When we first started visiting Taylor, downtown was a complete ghost town,” said J.D. Gins, Co-founder of Texas Beer Company.
“There were no cars, there were no people, nothing was happening here,” said Shannon Bagent, owner of Black Sparrow Music Parlor.
Recently, the city has welcomed new restaurants, music venues and other downtown businesses.
“In Austin, music venues are having a hard time staying open. In Taylor, music venues are being created every week,” Gins said.
With the addition of the Texas Beer Company and the Black Sparrow Music Parlor came the idea to create an outdoor space for customers. By moving a few picnic tables, people were able to drink on the sidewalk.
“One of the things that people love the most about our space here on Main Street is sitting outside,” said Gins.
Until someone brought up an old ordinance to City Council.
“We have an open container ordinance that prohibits open containers in our central business district,” said Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell.
The City asked downtown business owners to restrict outdoor drinking and they did.
“So, do I think that people drinking in the sidewalks was a problem? Absolutely not. It has not led to any problems at all,” Bagent said.
Then business owners did something else, they started a petition.
“We want to repeal the original ordinance; we want to work on a formalization of an entertainment district, which would help with more events downtown, which would allow food trucks, pedestrian safety, other things like that,” said Gins.
Taylor City Council had considered starting an entertainment district before and found little opposition to doing so.
“It's nice that we have this new impetus now to kind of push this over the finish line, because I think there is a popular will in the community and certainly among the council, a political will, to do something along those lines, establishing an arts and entertainment district downtown,” Rydell said.
Business owners hope the renewed effort will attract new visitors and businesses and make Taylor into the destination it once was.
“Taylor used to be a hub of Williamson County and the downtown used to be one of the most vibrant downtowns around, and, after a pretty large decline, a lot of people are excited to see it coming back,” said Gins.
The petition asks Council to hold a specially called meeting to address the issue. However, business owners said they aren't trying to rush it. They want it done right rather than quickly.
Still, the Mayor said he expects Council to take up the cause sooner rather than later.