The Hilltop Cafe is a place where food and music-lovers gather to enjoy the sumptuous fare, the unique Hill Country ambiance and great Texas music.

As you may well know, we have fought long and hard to preserve and protect our beautiful Edwards Aquifer, the spring water that comes from this pristine source, and our iconic Texas music venue.

For 43 years we have served this healthy and delicious spring water without incident and have held the TCEQ at bay. But now, limited operating hours and closure are upon us.

How could something this absurd, unnecessary and unwarranted have possibly happened?

In the spring of 2013 I received a call from Stacy Johnson of the TCEQ asking if we served more than 25 people 60 days of the year. I replied that of course we did or we wouldn’t be in business. This is where the nightmare began, and even though it defies rational thought or reasoning to try and comprehend how this stupid and arbitrary regulation could turn a Mom and Pop restaurant into a Public Water System, we decided to fight to expose and change this flawed regulation in hopes of effecting positive changes that would better serve small businesses and the people of Texas.

In the spring of 2018 Representative Kyle Biedermann and his assistant Mr Lawrence Bailey brokered an agreement and common sense arrangement with TCEQ, the AG’s office and the regional office of the EPA in Dallas. This was dubbed a pilot program to show and reinforce the empirical wisdom that pristine underground water resources such as the Edwards, when tested and delivered properly pose no threat to public health. In order to show good faith we installed a commercial UV filtration system and be a model for other restaurants that want as required by TCEQ regulation.

I was threatened with serving jail time and paying $300,000 in penalties, fines and legal fees to the state attorney general’s office. In order to avoid this draconian punishment (for the crime of serving beautiful healthy water) I have agreed to the following:

  • Hill Top will no longer operate as a public water system( as defined in the Water Code, 30 Tex. Admin. Code § 290.38(71))
  • We’ll pay $28,000.00 in penalties to the state

We’re still hoping for changes from Governor Abbott or the legislature that would allow reasonable exemptions for businesses like ours, which have always served clean water without any problems.

Thanks to your amazing support, and the efforts of Kyle Biederman and Larry Bailey, we’ve managed to keep the TCEQ from causing even more trouble. We need your help once again:

  • Write a letter to Governor Abbott expressing your frustration about this situation.
  • Swing by Hill Top for some great food and music as often as possible until November 23rd.
  • Attend benefit shows in Austin, San Antonio, and Hill Top that we are organizing around this issue alongside many of my musician friends who have offered their services to help fight this injustice.

Call it civil disobedience if you will, I only know that if we don’t stand up against tyranny and government abuse like this then we risk further erosion of our civil rights and freedoms and wasting and poisoning of our natural resources. Bureaucrats need to be held accountable. Government authority needs to be routinely questioned and challenged. Unjust laws and regulations need to be struck down.

Please continue to support our fight to protect our aquifer and small businesses throughout Texas.

Best Regards, Johnny Nicholas