Red River Cultural District anchor Stubb’s on Sunday became one of the first Austin venues to present live music since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the city’s vibrant music scene.
Stubb’s, which serves barbecue in addition to hosting both indoor and outdoor concerts since the 1990s, was open Thursday through Monday of Memorial Day weekend. The restaurant offered dining on a few dozen picnic tables set up 8 feet apart in its 16,000-square-foot open-air Waller Creek Amphitheater space, according to general manager Ryan Garrett.
On Sunday, local singer Donovan Keith became the first act to perform at the venue since mid-March with a late afternoon set. A second set was scheduled with fellow Austin musician Aaron Stephens, but Sunday’s hailstorm caused that performance to be canceled.
Garrett said Tuesday that Stubb’s is mandating masks upon entry for patrons and that employees also are being required to wear masks. He noted that capacity for the shows is being held to about 300, with a limit of six persons per table and a maximum of 50 tables. Stubb’s lists its normal standing-room capacity for the space at 2,200.
Going forward, Stubb’s plans to be open for outdoor-only dining from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Austin-based Live Nation affiliate C3 Presents, the venue’s longtime booking associate, is working to place more local acts in the venue this weekend and into June. Garrett said he expects to announce performers within the next day or two via the venue’s website and social media accounts.
Last week, South Austin indoor honky-tonk and restaurant the Broken Spoke announced plans to open under the 25% capacity limit allowed by new state regulations that went into effect Friday. Longtime Spoke regular Alvin Crow was booked for Friday and Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, with country bands the Wagoneers and Two Tons of Steel set for this Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Garrett, whose venue is tied to the Red River Cultural District alliance that also represents clubs such as the Mohawk, Barracuda and Empire, said his impression is that other venues within the RRCD and beyond “are looking at early to mid-June” for possible reopenings. Last week, several prominent local venues, including the Continental Club and the Saxon Pub, reaffirmed plans to stay closed for the time being, despite Friday’s change in state regulations for bars.
“This is not a tremendously profitable model,” Garrett added in regard to the decision to open at limited capacity. “We’re hoping it’s enough to allow us to survive until we get back to operating at business-as-usual. It’s going to be a long road to recovery for everybody.”