When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced that the state’s bars will be allowed to reopen Friday at 25% capacity, Broken Spoke owner James M. White said he was "tickled to death to open up the bar."
"I’m very happy about it," he said.
The storied honky tonk will reopen on Friday, but most other music venues in Austin "plan to take a little more time" to open up after the coronavirus pandemic shut them down, said Rebecca Reynolds, head of the Music Venue Alliance of Austin, on Monday.
Steve Sternschein of Heard Entertainment, which owns the downtown clubs Empire Control Room & Garage and the Parish, said he has no plans to reopen at this time.
"I don’t think it's responsible to reopen bars right now," he said. "I have been listening to the scientific community and medical folks and without more certainty it's just not worth the risk.
"Things like nail salons and sit-down dining don’t have the same issues as a crowded bar. If it’s not crowded, we don’t make enough money to cover rent. We would be running over 50% in the red, even with staff reductions, to just have 20-50 people in the rooms."
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On Tuesday, popular South Austin venues the Saxon Pub and the Continental Club echoed that sentiment in social media posts.
"Being a live music venue we would not be able to collect enough admission charges for payment to musicians much less production charges, utilities, staff, etc. Austin musicians are underpaid as it is and only letting in only 25% of our capacity doesn’t cut it," a post on the Saxon Pub’s Facebook page read.
Dianne Scott, public relations and social media maven for the Continental Club, shared a statement from club owner Steve Wertheimer saying it was too soon to reopen.
"The criteria (required to reopen) would be very hard for us to implement in our environment. Due to our demographic, we do not feel like it would be in our customers' and many of our musicians' best interest at this time. We need more data before we open the floodgates," Wertheimer said.
Reynolds, whose organization represents about 50 venues in Austin, said that while "finding a way out is obviously top of mind," her priority has been to "continue to work on securing funding so businesses don't feel compelled to make hasty decisions out of necessity."
Last week, representatives from the Red River Cultural District sent a letter to Austin City Council asking for disaster relief funding for music venues.
"Council will be taking the issue up on Thursday, and I feel good about it," Reynolds said.