We're Listening To You: No Bar District


I’m Garrett Martin, one of the owners of The Grove at Shoal Creek, and I’d like to ask for a moment of your time so I can personally respond to some recent concerns. 

In our application with the City of Austin, we included Cocktail Lounges as a permitted use among the list of numerous other permitted uses such as townhomes, office, restaurants, grocery stores, and other neighborhood retail. This was just a list of uses that would be allowed under the ordinance and not a plan for development.  

Our plan for development is, was and always has been for a mixed use, urban infill project with neighborhood appropriate retail uses. That is our vision and our plan.

After we submitted the application, the City asked if we would consider a cap on the amount that Cocktail Lounge use. In response, we added a 75,000 square foot cap to provide the project and our future commercial operators’ flexibility.  This has understandably resulted in some concern.  

First, I want to repeat our assurance that we are not building a bar district.

A bar district is NOT part of the Shared Vision we have worked all these months to create with the neighborhood. We have no desire or reason to create a bar district and will not do so.

At a recent productive meeting with the Ridgelea Neighborhood Association, I was asked some very fair and reasonable questions on this topic. It became clear, that the answer above does not provide the assurance that some are fairly looking for. So, I want to explain what our thinking was and, more importantly, tell you about changes we will make regarding Cocktail Lounges to hopefully address these concerns and ensure that the project fits our Shared Vision as much as possible. 

The Grove is envisioned as a place where you will want to come and visit and stay for a while. 

Think of a comfortable deck or patio shaded by oak trees, a large public plaza with outdoor seating, or an elevated terrace with a view of downtown. Think of a place when you can go with your family and friends and relax with a patio, playground or splash pad. 

In these particular examples, we’re not imagining places where you grab a quick bite and go. The Grove will be a place where you can take your time and aren’t in a hurry. Perhaps you and your spouse and friends will want to have a drink before dinner, or maybe a glass of wine afterwards.

These are the kinds of environments that we’re trying to create. 

You may ask, “Why can’t these places simply be restaurants instead of Cocktail Lounges?” Most will be to be sure, but it’s still a more detailed answer. 

Alcohol sales are highly regulated by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the City of Austin. According to City zoning code, restaurants must receive at least 51% of their gross sales from the sale of prepared food.

Sometimes a restaurant that sells alcohol may end up generating more than 49% of its revenue from alcohol, and, could, therefore, get reclassified as a Cocktail Lounge, even though it is a restaurant. 

So when the City made its request to cap the amount of Cocktail Lounges, it got us thinking about possible impacts. Because we plan to have several restaurants where you might want to linger, we did not want to place such a low cap that we might impact those restaurant uses. We just wanted flexibility in the ordinance.  

However, we have heard the community’s concern and want everyone to be assured that there will be no bar district at The Grove.  Therefore, we will reduce the total Cocktail Lounge cap to 25,000 square feet.  We will make this change to our Land Use Plan in the coming days and it will be included in the zoning ordinance as binding and enforceable restriction.  

This will allow the project to have a neighborhood pub, a wine bar, a high quality restaurant and other restaurants where you can come early before a meal and stay later after one as well.  We also hope that this will assure you that there is no bar district in the project.

To those of you that have inquired with us directly on this issue, thank you for the sincere dialogue on this topic.

Let’s keep the conversation going. If you have feedback or a question, please let me know directly at info@thegroveatshoalcreek.com, or tell your preferred organization, like the Bull Creek Road Coalition, Friends of The Grove, AURA or your neighborhood association. 

I thank you for your time and your participation in creating a Shared Vision for The Grove at Shoal Creek. 

Garrett Martin