New Wheatsville Co-op's proximity to school may hamper alcohol sales


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

Posted on December 6, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 6 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- The Wheatsville Food Co-op is set to open in South Austin in the Lamar Oaks shopping plaza in the spring of 2013.

It plans to sell beer and wine just like at its Guadalupe location, but city code dictates any business that sells alcohol must be at least 300 feet from a school, church or hospital. Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is closer than that.

Wheatsville is a cooperative natural foods retailer that's been in business on Guadalupe since 1976. It's the only retail food cooperative in Texas and has almost 1,200 invested owners. Among local foods sold, it also sells alcohol.

It's set to open a new location on South Lamar, but since it's right around the corner from the Ann Richards school, it's had to request a waiver from the City to sell within 300 feet of a school.

Jerry Rusthoven with Austin's planning and zoning department says he has seen some requests turned down in the past.

"The city council hears public testimony from those in favor and anyone opposed, and then they use their best judgment about whether this is an approvable condition or not," Rusthoven said.

"I think this is a good, family environment," said shopper Roni Beer.
One shopper says she wouldn't object to opening a Wheatsville Co-op near a school. "I don't think it's a problem," she said. "They have such a variety of items here for everyone. I don't think alcohol is going to cause any trouble."

It's posted the grocery store has requested a waiver, and in a statement from Wheatsville, KVUE is told they're seeking a variance on the city code in order to offer the same small, high-quality local beer selection to South Austin shoppers as they have for decades at the original location.

Wheatsville Brand Manager Raquel Dadomo also said they have a proven record of strict compliance with all city laws and codes and are confident the public city council process will reflect the overall community desire "to keep local business in Austin healthy and thriving and give Wheatsville the best chance for success in our new neighborhood."

There is at least one restaurant that serves alcohol just as close as Wheatsville to the Ann Richards school, and Pluckers Wing Bar is just across from the co-op's new location.

The Austin City Council has set a public hearing for Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. at Austin City Hall.