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Austin public radio station KUT will no longer run Cactus Café on UT campus

Shawn Colvin celebrated the 30-year anniversary of her debut album at the Cactus Café in 2019.

Austin's public radio station, KUT, will no longer manage and book the Cactus Café, University of Texas officials confirmed Friday. But the tiny campus club with a storied history that stretches back to 1979 will continue as a music venue, officials said.

The local public radio organization — which has news station KUT on 90.5 FM and music station KUTX on 98.9 FM — took over management of the hideaway club nestled inside the Texas Union a decade ago, after the university announced plans to close the venue, setting off an outcry in the local music scene.

In a statement provided to the American-Statesman this month and shared again Friday, UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said the university is "committed to continuing musical programming at the Cactus Café for years to come, in keeping with the venue’s rich history."  

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"How bookings will be handled is still being discussed," Bird said.

The agreement between Austin's NPR affiliate and the university began in September 2010. At the time of the change in management, the venue was operating with $66,000 in annual losses. 

The university and KUT/KUTX agreed to close the venue due to COVID-19 safety concerns at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and it has not yet reopened to the public.

The club typically presents a variety of local and national singer-songwriters, a long-running open mic night hosted by Kacy Crowley and KUT's regular "Views and Brews" conversation series. Established artists who could play much larger venues have sometimes dropped in for intimate shows. In 2019, Shawn Colvin celebrated the 30th anniversary of her debut album, "Steady On," at the venue.

“You can’t know how much it means to me to be in this room with you guys,” Colvin said at the show. 

"The university is grateful that KUT managed the Cactus Café for 10 years, helping support the Austin music scene," Bird said in a statement. "Financial considerations led the station to decline to renew the agreement, but UT Austin remains committed to continuing musical programming at the Cactus for years to come while creating a sustainable path forward for its operations." 

Former Statesman editor Debbie Hiott took over as general manager of KUT/KUTX in 2019.