We began reporting last week on a dispute between Red River club owners from the Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlie’s and nearby development related to a new Hyatt House hotel.
Mohawk owner James Moody told Austin360 on Friday that his club had received a notice from the City of Austin to vacate a space on the south side of the club where his venue and neighboring club Cheer Up Charlie’s share a disposal area that houses two dumpsters. The city notice called the area, which Moody says his club has used for over 10 years, a vacated alley and gave the club 15 days to vacate the right-of-way. The letter from the city also noted that portable toilets and a fence-type structure are in the right of way, referencing the club’s upstairs deck which has also been on the site for over 10 years.
“We are shocked. We disagree with the interpretations. The requests are unreasonable and we are confused as to why the neighborhood and its stakeholders have not been informed of these plans until now,” Moody said, noting that he thought the notice was a direct result of hotel development in the area.
The Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlie’s have a meeting scheduled Friday with their City Council member Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo to discuss the situation. In the meantime the club has started a “dumpstergate” hash tag campaign to raise awareness. Representatives from the developers are expected to attend the meeting as well.
On Saturday, Cheer Up Charlie’s owners Maggie Lea and Tamara Hoover said the hotel development would also affect the natural limestone rock wall that forms the western border of their club. The first phase of the construction, they said, would involve digging 40 feet into the ground on an adjacent lot to lay the foundation for the hotel’s parking garage. They said they would have to remove recently installed landscaping, and the development company build a plywood fence along the side of their property for the duration of the construction, estimated to take 18 months. They said it was unclear how much of the rock wall would need to be removed, but they were worried about the impact to their business.
On Monday we stopped by the club where landscaping was being removed.
On Monday, we also received the following statement from representatives of the Hyatt House:
“The unique and dynamic culture of this neighborhood is what draws Hyatt to this part of Austin, and we want to do everything we can to be great neighbors to those establishments that make the neighborhood so unique. Along with Journeyman Group, the Austin-based property developer, we’ve worked carefully with the city and property owners to create construction plans specifically designed to avoid any disruption to the local music venues and to ensure the upcoming Hyatt House hotel can make a positive contribution to the neighborhood alongside the existing six Hyatt-branded hotels throughout Austin. We certainly want to ensure the development supports the local businesses near the hotel.”
On Tuesday, representatives for Cheer Up Charlie’s, Transmission Entertainment and Austin Music People held a press conference to discuss the tensions between development and existing Austin businesses with a specific focus on the Red River District.[archiveorg id=CheerUpCharliesPressConference06-23-2015 width=640 height=140]
Also, on Tuesday, local music bloggers and community activists put out a call for protesters to show up at the club early Wednesday morning to try to halt construction.
On Wednesday morning Cheer Up Charlie’s reposted a photo of protesters from user @xetasrule on the club’s Instagram account and announced that construction company Journeyman had agreed to put the brakes on construction until Friday if there was a continuous presence of protesters. The club called for more folks to come out.
On Thursday morning, Cheer Up Charlie’s owner Maggie Lea said the construction company put up scaffolding on the property. An environmental inspection specialist from the City of Austin visited the site and said there were no code violations to report at this time.
The club owners have been forthright about the fact that their lease does not protect them from any changes the owner decides to make on their property. When their lawyer reviewed the lease, before they signed the contract a year and a half ago, he warned of multiple red flags, Lea said. They have three more years on the lease with an option to renew. Though an Austin Chronicle report published Thursday quoted Hoover saying she would not look to renew the venue’s lease when it comes up in 2019, Lea suggested her partner might have been speaking out of exasperation.
“Three years down the road we don’t know what it’s going to look like obviously,” Lea said. If the wall is gone, they would definitely not look to renew the lease, she said, but a change in the climate that eased tensions between developers and businesses might sway them to stay. “If the environment proves to be nurturing for venues we would love to be a part of it,” she said.
There is a Rally for Red River event scheduled to take place at the club at 6 p.m. Thursday. Look for a report from that event later in the Austin Music Source blog.