Red River district clubs Holy Mountain, Red 7 in danger of closing

A-List: Austin Town Hall showcase at Holy Mountain, 01.06.15. Arnold Wells/For American-Statesman

A-List: Austin Town Hall showcase at Holy Mountain, 01.06.15. Arnold Wells/For American-Statesman

Last week, Holy Mountain manager James Taylor told us via email club owners were in the midst of a difficult negotiation with their landlord. “We’re having a tough time negotiating lease terms that work for both parties,” he said.

Today the Austin Chronicle reports Holy Mountain and neighboring Seventh St. club Red 7 are both in danger of losing their leases, citing potential rent increases of $2500 and $5000 respectively, as untenable for the clubs.

The clubs both program a vibrant mix of punk, rock and hip-hop. Holy Mountain, the smaller of the two, has become one of the city’s prime incubators for emerging local talent and home base to excellent alt-country rockers East Cameron Folkcore and Harvest Thieves. Red 7, with an small indoor room and a larger outdoor stage,  has become a much-loved pit stop for touring acts from all over the world.

Both clubs are successful businesses, Red 7 has 21 shows programmed through the end of the month, and Holy Mountain has 14, but the threat of rising real estate values has loomed large. Mayor Steve Adler addressed the situation in a recent presentation to the Austin Music Foundation’s Leaders In Austin music class. Losing venues on Red River, the mayor said, puts us “at risk of losing what makes us special.” He went on to suggest we need to “get in front of gentrification” for housing and music venues too.

Brendan Anthony, director of the Texas Music Office also hinted at brewing troubles in the district in a meeting earlier this year. “The guys on Red River are the ones who are really fighting hard and that’s a tough spot to pay rent and keep live music going,” he said. At the time, he said he was optimistic “that open lines of communication between developers have opened up.”

“This street or this area might look different ten years from now, but we need to keep a common thread, music nightlife in a certain spot,” he said.

The loss of either club would be a hit for the Austin music scene. Losing them both would be devastating blow to the Red River Music District, the city’s premiere walkable music row, where music fans can bounce from the two clubs to Empire Control Room across the street before heading down Red River to check out music at Cheer Up Charlie’s, Beerland, Elysium, Stubb’s and the Mohawk.

Jennifer Houlihan, director of the musician’s advocacy group Austin Music People calls this negotiation  “a canary in a coal mine for the health of Austin’s creative sector, which generates more than $4 billion a year in economic impact to our city.”

“It’s long overdue for the city to take a hard look at the risks to the larger local economy if those who made us the Live Music Capital of the World are forced to pack up their talents and head for a more hospitable environment,” she said.

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