Council caps number of bars on Rainey Street
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Would-be bar owners have a new hurdle to leap if they want to open on Rainey Street.
Austin City Council on Thursday approved a cap on the number of bars in the once-sleepy section of downtown. With the cap now in place, business owners must now get a green light from council before the tapping the kegs.
When Stuart Thompson joined the bar Icenhauer's on Rainey Street two years ago, foot traffic was minimal.
"We were actually on the street trying to wave people into the business because the street was so unheard of at the time," Thompson said.
Instead of three or four bars, there are now about a dozen—each with its own vibe. Icenhauer's has a somewhat modern look, while Lustre Pearl looks a lot like it did before being a bar--an aging bungalow.
"It's hip and cool if you like that kind of stuff,” Council Member Mike Martinez said. “If you live there, it's become an issue."
Martinez said the surge in nightlife is one reason the City Council capped the limit on cocktail lounges for Rainey Street. Before Thursday, there was no limit on the number of bars within Austin's Central Business District.
When city leaders originally designated Rainey Street as part of the Central Business District, the idea was that it would spur upward growth. Instead, about a dozen of the bungalows have been transformed into cocktail lounges.
Construction is underway on one high rise in the neighborhood and Martinez said plans are in the works for two more.
"Complete redevelopment that included sidewalks, parking infrastructure, retail, residential, office components," the council member said.
Thompson welcomes the new neighbors and is hopeful that refurbished bungalows can coexist with brand new high rises.
"As long as the people that live in there understand that this is an entertainment district and they are OK with that," he said.
City leaders are also working to improve transportation in the area. Sidewalks and bike lanes are planned in the coming months.