This past month, The Austin City Council revoked a live music permit for a bar on Rainey Street. Once known as the “last neighborhood” with single-family houses in Downtown Austin, Rainey Street is now legally re-zoned as a Central Business District. Since its re-zoning a few years ago, Rainey Street has introduced 4 new restaurant/bars to Austin’s nightlife scene, including Clive, Lustre Pearl, Icenhaüer’s and Bar 96. In August 2010, the City granted Lustre Pearl an outdoor music permit to be able to play music no louder than 70 decibels, but quickly revoked it four months later after several concerns were voiced from Rainey Street neighbors.
Why the concerns?
Change is inevitable in a fast-growing city, especially in a city that hopes to triple its Downtown residential community in less than 10 years. But with change comes resistance, and resistance usually often introduces conflict. The expansion of Downtown residential towers is not only changing the Austin skyline, but it’s changing more and more areas to no-music zones and is quickly relinquishing Austin’s coined slogan as the “Live Music Capital of the World” — SXSW and ACL are only two of the major tourist attractions to Austin’s live music scene. Local bars and restaurants also have regularly scheduled shows that attract tourists and generate City income.
What does this mean?
In 1991 Austin was coined “Live Music Capital of the World” after research by the City found more live music venues per capita than the most known music towns in the country, including Nashville, Memphis or Los Angeles. While the City Council recognizes that music drives Austin’s “creative economy” generating millions of dollars annually for the city, the anticipated growth of Downtown Austin is causing concerns of noise disturbances and parking issues. Austin City Council members explained to bar owners that the City’s infrastructure is just not prepared for such an increase in music venues in Downtown Austin. In order to accommodate for the size of crowds that live music brings, the City needs to improve the streets by adding more lights, sidewalks and parking.
Once the City reviews the concerns of local residents, bar owners will have another chance to re-apply for a live music permit. But the concerns of those who want to protect what makes Austin unique or “keep Austin weird” are muffled by new Downtown Austin residents who aren’t used to community living. The expanding Downtown housing market is not accommodating to the existing Downtown nightlife and is suppressing the Downtown music scene, a huge part of Austin’s economy and culture. If re-zoning continues without the infrastructure to support both expanding commercial and residential industries, then conflict will continue. In order to keep the peace, the City needs to find a balance between population growth and live music preservation. Whether by issuing commercial permits only if adequate parking is available, or resolving concerns of local residents before a restaurant invests money to develop in the area, the City needs to be a contender on both sides.
Read more about why the City Council revoked Rainey Street’s music permit on KXAN’s site here.
Do you know of a way to support both Austin’s culture and residential growth? We want to hear from you! Please, leave a comment below.
This blog is in reference to this week’s Free Lunch Fridays, a trivia contest featuring bars and restaurants in Realty Austin’s new neighborhood in Downtown Austin. The winner gets a free lunch for two at a restaurant nearby our new headquarters off West 5th and Lamar. “Like” us on Realty Austin’s Facebook Fan Page to join the fun and win free lunch for two! This week’s FLF is sponsored by Galaxy Café, a local restaurant near Downtown Austin in Clarksville.