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Presidio County Postpones Late Hours Vote For Local Business, Looks To Adopt Area-Wide Ordinance

By Sally Beauvais

On Wednesday, Presidio County officials postponed their vote on a request by business owner Liz Lambert for permission to serve alcohol until 2 AM at her Marfa hotel, El Cosmico.

The commissioners court plans to adopt an area-wide policy for unincorporated parts of the county before revisiting Lambert's request.

Wednesday marks the second time El Cosmico has come in front of the commission seeking extended serving hours. In 2016, county officials denied their request out of concern for of public safety.

But Lambert opted to ask again this week in light of the county’s recent decision to grant late night hours to local businessman Tim Crowley at his venue that’s yet to be built just west of city limits.

"The issue's come up on whether it's proper for the county commissioners to grant late night extensions on an ad hoc or individual basis," County Attorney Rod Ponton said at the meeting.

He recommended the commission adopt an area-wide ordinance allowing extended serving hours in unincorporated Presidio County before acting on Lambert’s request.

"That way it’s less perceived as trying to cherry-pick, or pick and choose, or favoritism for one person over another or one business over another," Ponton said.

He stated that the county's previous rulings granting late night hours to several businesses in unincorporated parts of the county were made lawfully, but that adopting an area-wide ordinance would be best practice.

Dallas-based attorney Tim Griffith has argued that the county's decision-making regarding extended serving hours has been arbitrary and unlawful up to this point.

Commissioners did not come to a conclusion on how much power the county would have to approve or deny individual requests for late night serving privileges under such an ordinance.

"Would it mean that if the permit is properly filled out and certain criteria are met that [all applicants] would be automatically approved?" Marfa City Councilman Yoseff Ben-Yehuda asked.

Ponton suggested the commission could still hold a public hearing for each, and that adopting an ordinance would not make a big difference in the process of approval.

Commissioner Frank "Buddy" Knight and County Judge Cinderela Guevara both indicated that they felt they would have to grant late night hours to El Cosmico following the adoption of an area-wide ordinance, and in light of their decision to extend them to Tim Crowley in January.

The commission is expected to consider adopting an ordinance at a meeting in the near future.

Full disclosure: Reporter Sally Beauvais was working at El Cosmico in 2016 when the hotel first asked Presidio County for extended serving hours. In her role, she was not involved in the request. She left the job the same year. 

Sally Beauvais is a reporter at Marfa Public Radio.