Company seeks permission to open Taco Bell Cantina, serve alcohol despite proximity to church

Hannah Daniel

Students may soon have a new option for Mexican food near campus, since plans are in the works to open a Taco Bell Cantina at 2000 Guadalupe St.

The Taco Bell website describes Taco Bell Cantina as an “urban restaurant concept” that modernizes and redefines the fast food experience. Its most distinctive features include the absence of a drive-thru window, increased use of technology in placing orders, an open kitchen design and the addition of alcohol to the menu.

If approved, the restaurant will be built on land owned by the St. Austin Catholic Parish approximately 103 feet from the entrance of the St. Austin Catholic Church entrance. The sale of alcohol at Taco Bell Cantina poses an obstacle to its opening, since businesses that sell alcohol cannot be located within 300 feet of a religious establishment in Austin.

The company trying to open this location, Tacala Austin LLC, has requested a waiver from the City Council to exempt the restaurant from this regulation. In support of its cause, the company has obtained a letter from the pastor of the church, Rev. Charles Kullmann, in which he said the church does not object to the service of alcohol on the property.

“We reached this conclusion because the property is small, is a store front on Guadalupe Street, the alcohol will be consumed on site, and the [alcohol] receipts from the restaurant will, reportedly, be less than 40% of [Taco Bell Cantina’s] total receipts,” Kullmann wrote in the letter.

Finance junior Julia Cho said she could see herself hanging out at this restaurant with friends but understands why it might not be approved.

“It’s a good business decision to come to a college campus and serve not only fast food but also alcohol,” Cho said. “I think it’s also a little disrespectful. Just because you have one ‘yes’ from a person in charge of the church doesn’t mean that the other people attending the church won’t be offended.”

Psychology junior TJ Bell said he doesn’t see why this regulation exists to begin with.

“I don’t think churches should have the right to restrict businesses from being established,” Bell said. “I’m not the happiest about a Taco Bell opening on the Drag when there could be much better options, but this sounds okay.”

A public hearing and potential vote on this issue will take place Thursday at the council meeting.