'Hole In The Wall' struggling to stay afloat

"Hole In The Wall" is just like it sounds -- it's a hole in the wall bar right next to UT.

Sarah Mclaughlin is the general manager now but in her early 20's, she would take the bus to "The Drag" and hang out there.

"It was just part of the music scene, there wasn't a lot of venues back then like there is now.  You know it was pretty much Emo's, Liberty Lunch or here...in my world anyway," she said.

She says The Drag used to be like an "outside mall for cool people" but it's changed.

"We're the last of it on The Drag.  We're the last part of old history on The Drag.  It's just going to be Urban Outfitters for miles," Mclaughlin said.

And now -- like many other venues in town, the possibility of rising rent has them trying to figure out how to survive.

We spoke with Ward Tisdale, President of the Real Estate Council of Austin about why this is happening.  He says it's supply and demand.

"We have a very over-regulated city hall that regulates permitting, building, site plans, those kinds of things...that at the end of the day prohibit supply getting to the market.   And when you limit supply, prices are going to go up," Tisdale said.

Hole In The Wall is currently paying more than $15,000 a month in rent.

The bar's lease is up at the end of December and Mclaughlin says the owner, Will Tanner, is afraid the landlord will either raise the rent so high they can't pay it or they'll just cut them loose.

"Nothing is set in stone yet with the landlord with Cencor but...we're trying to work something out with them and hopefully they're willing to realize that this is an historic venue in Austin," she said.

But Scott Freid with the Weitzman Group/Cencor Realty Services, the representative for the building ownership, says his agency has been trying to work with Hole In The Wall but Tanner hasn't been keeping up his end of the bargain when it comes to maintenance.

Freid says "Will is obligated in his lease to maintain the building.  He has obviously done a poor job, and this obligation has been a major sticking point of the renewal along with several other violations."

Freid says keeping the bar open is a priority for the agency.

Aside from the ongoing discussions between Tanner and the landlord, Mclaughlin is emotional at the thought of leaving.

"I've been here a long time and I mean this is home to me in a lot of respects," she said.

Even though uncertainty is in the air, Hole In The Wall must go on.

"We all still have a job to do.  We want to do it well and we want to keep on giving everyone a good time, good shows...until we can't anymore," Mclaughlin said.

Mclaughlin says some professors at UT who frequent the bar are trying to save it by petitioning to get it a historical designation.
  
Here is the full statement from Scott Freid:

"We have always told Will that it is a priority for us to have this business stay. We have told him this multiple times over the last year and sat down with him as recently as last week.

Since the beginning, Will has continued to maintain that the business is a labor of love and it makes no money. This is further proven by the sales he reports to the TABC.

Will is obligated in his lease to maintain the building. He has obviously done a poor job, and this obligation has been a major sticking point of the renewal along with several other violations. "

Will decided to be the steward for the Hole in the Wall eight years ago, and it has not gone as he planned. We want him to renew and have given him every opportunity to work something out, which included several concessions from the landlord.  Instead of telling the public that he is ready to move on, it seems he has chosen to make the landlord responsible for the demise of his business.  Needless to say, all of this is a little surprising, since we've been working with him every step of the way. But he has to commit to working out a new lease near term or we have to release the building. What happens to the Hole in the Wall is squarely in his hands.  

We have received calls from tenants interested in the building forever. There is nothing new about tenants wanting to lease this great site.   Will has been non-committal for years and did not exercise his renewal option. But to be clear, the partnership that owns the building has not engaged a broker to lease the space nor has a marketing program commenced. But Will's lease expires in four months, and there is only so long that we can wait for an answer." 


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