STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET — Burnet County officials voted against allowing businesses in unincorporated areas to extend the sale of alcoholic beverages to 2 a.m. Opponents cited concerns about a potential increase of drunken drivers.
Commissioners recently rejected — by a 3-2 vote — a request by a businesswoman planning to open a piano bar on Northridge Road, just off U.S. 281 north of Marble Falls.
County Judge James Oakley and Precinct 3 Commissioner Billy Wall voted for the measure. Precinct 1 Commissioner Jim Luther Jr., Precinct 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery voted against it.
“My decision was based on public safety,” Dockery said. “When I was growing up, Dad always said, ‘Nothing good happens after midnight.’
“Let’s don’t put additional people on the road that may be impaired in any form or fashion at that hour of the night,” he added.
Currently, a business owner who holds a license/permit to sell alcohol is not required to apply with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to remain open until midnight on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on Saturdays, according to the state regulatory agency.
If a local government entity approves a late-hours sales ordinance, a business may then apply to TABC for a permit to allow the sale of alcohol until 2 a.m. on any night.
“I hope (the bar owners) understood what we would be voting on would be county-wide,” Dockery said.
The Dec. 21 commissioners court vote isn’t specific to this particular business, but applies across the unincorporated portions of Burnet County. Bars and taverns within an incorporated municipality fall under the auspices of that particular city (as well as TABC).
“I talked to folks from EMS and the county (law enforcement),” Dockery added. “Everybody I talked to in public safety did not have any positive comments about it,” Dockery added.
Oakley, who voted to extend the hours, said he understood concerns about “the chance for more drunk drivers on the road;” however, he would like to see a less “intrusive” policy.
“I voted for it just to be in sync with the surrounding counties as well as the city of Marble Falls, which is right on the edge (of the unincorporated boundary),” he said. “It’s in line with my general approach to government that there should be fewer government restrictions.”