Marfa Public Radio 2020 Investigative Reporting Murrow Submission

Marfa Reacts To County’s Decision Granting Late Night Serving Hours To Local Businessman

Tourists take photos at the Stardust Marfa sign just west of city limits. (Sally Beauvais / Marfa Public Radio)

This is the first in a series of three stories by Marfa Public Radio’s Sally Beauvais investigating a controversial decision by elected county officials.

In early 2019, the Presidio County Commissioners Court granted late night alcohol serving privileges to prominent businessman, Tim Crowley, at his yet-to-be-built bar and wedding venue just outside of Marfa’s city limits.

Within the city, bars serve until midnight. The county’s ruling allows Crowley to serve until 2 AM. 

The commission denied a request for extended serving hours by a similar business in 2016, after residents who live nearby the property attended a locally-held hearing and voiced their opposition. Commissioners made their decision about Crowley’s property at a meeting 60 miles south of Marfa, without collecting local input.

The ruling sparked concern and frustration among residents who feel their voices aren’t being considered in the broader conversation around tourism, gentrification, and rapid change in their small town. It also further stoked suspicions around Crowley, as a businessman with perceived sway among elected officials.

This first story and the ones that followed, which revealed officials were making decisions without legal standards that privileged some individuals over others, changed county policy to be fairer to all businesses under the jurisdiction of the commission.

The question that sparked the story came to us through our listener-powered curiosity series. In rural West Texas, where our county officials are not used to being held accountable, it exemplifies the power of journalism to listen to communities, reflect their needs, and affect change of issues they care about.

About Sally Beauvais

Sally Beauvais reports on rural issues in Far West Texas. She also runs Marfa Public Radio's engagement efforts.
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