Got gas? New restaurants in downtown Georgetown can’t open without it

Restaurants along Austin Avenue near 8th Street cannot expand or welcome new neighboring restaurants until the city upgrades its natural gas line. (KXAN Photo/Lauren Kravets)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — As cities across Central Texas continue to expand, new restaurants and existing establishments looking to expand in Georgetown, are on hold in a part of downtown.

The affected area is the block along Austin Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. The city says the high-pressure natural gas line is maxed out, meaning no full-menu restaurants can set up until the problem is fixed.

“Everything on the square, because of the historic nature, is buried underground and so upgrading is very costly for independent restaurants, but on the city side it isn’t necessarily as high of a cost,” explains Michaela Dollar, director of the Georgetown Economic Development Corporation.

The city council will vote Tuesday night to pay up to $300,000 to Atmos Energy to handle the improvements and extend the gas line.

“As we’re recruiting more and more restaurants, extending this line down one block has the potential to serve a future, four, five, six restaurants,” explains Dollar.

The owner of The Well, the newest downtown restaurant slated to move in at the northwest corner of Austin Avenue and Eighth Street, says he can’t open the establishment until the city upgrades are finished. The Well, which will serve upscale American food including steaks and seafood, was hoping to open in March 2018, but that will depend on when the gas line is done.

“You can’t stop progress, and Georgetown is growing, they’re growing smartly. But I think something needs to be done, I mean you have to have the access,” said Mark Thompson, co-owner of 600 Degrees Pizzeria, which expanded in 2016.

If council approves the upgrades, the city hopes to have the gas line finished within six months to a year.

Last year the city of Georgetown did a retail study that showed the city lost the most business to people going to other cities to eat out.

In Austin, Texas Gas Service says anytime a business expands, it must have the appropriate infrastructure for natural gas, water and electricity. Texas Gas Service says it has not had any issues getting the permits required to meet those needs.

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