City officials say a year-long pilot program that extended curfews for five outdoor music venues in the Red River Cultural District resulted in more money for bars, their staffs and local musicians while having no significant impact on nearby neighborhoods. As the program comes to its conclusion, city staff and the Austin Music Commission are recommending City Council amend city code to make the later curfews in the district permanent.
The program extended curfews to midnight on Thursday night and 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for Stubb’s BBQ, the Mohawk, Empire Garage, Cheer Up Charlie’s and the Sidewinder. The club owners argued that their city-mandated early cut off times were depriving them of much-needed income during the late night hours which are prime time for alcohol sales. The curfew for live music venues in the adjacent Sixth Street Entertainment district is 2 a.m.
The pilot program, which began on May 1, 2017 and runs through April 30, 2018, was set up by the city’s music and entertainment office, to gather data on the impact a later curfew would have on both the clubs and the community. In a presentation about the program’s findings, Brian Block from the city said money from ticket sales increased by six percent and money the clubs paid to staff increased by three percent during the first six months of the program.
When the program was proposed, club owners said later curfews would allow them to book more local artists, adding an additional opener to touring shows. In the first six months, the clubs booked four percent more local and regional acts and the amount of money local acts received was up by five percent. Mixed beverage sales were up for five of the first eight months of the program.
During that same time, noise complaints registered with the city’s 311 number actually went down.
The city held nine neighborhood meetings and three stakeholder meetings with representatives from venues and residents during the pilot program. City staff also set up a hotline for residents North of the University of Texas with concerns about noise.
At the meeting, Kimberly Levinson, vice president of the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, applauded the venue owners for their open communication and willingness to submit to strict sound monitoring throughout the process. Sound monitors were placed in the venues and at hotels and homes in neighborhoods near the district to measure noise levels during the program.
“I have no hesitation in recommending we adopt this,” she said.
In the report’s recommendations, city staff say they might “expand this approach that has been working in Red River city-wide.”
At the meeting, city officials said there are no plans to try this kind of pilot program in another Austin neighborhood at this time.