On Thursday, The Austin City Council voted to launch a pilot program that will extend music hours at venues along Red River.
“I’m pleased,” Steve Sternschein said after the vote. Sternschein owns the Empire Control Room and Garage in the Red River District. An area that helped Austin coin the phrase, “The Live Music Capital of The World”.
“The pressures of increasing taxes and rent are serious enough without additional opportunities to increase our revenue ,” he says, adding, “a lot of the clubs that are existing now are not going to make it the next few years.”
Which is why he believes Thursdays City Council vote may have saved them. “This is a critical opportunity for us to increase our revenue to match the rising costs of operating a local music business.”
The Pilot Program will start in May and run for six months. It allows venues to play live music up to 85 decibels and run from ten o’clock in the morning through one o’clock the next morning on Fridays and Saturdays. The ordinance also says that at the end of the program Austin’s City Manager will evaluate data collected. The City Manager could decide to either cancel it or extend it for another six months. Additional language includes: allowing City Staff and City Council to end the program before the six-month mark if needed.
The Austin Police Department says they will also collect data from patrolling the area. And in addition to 3-1-1, there will also be a dedicated hotline for complaints. A city employee told the council that money for the line, as well as the person who will answer it is already in the city’s budget. The City Council says they will release the number and roll out initiatives to publicize it as it gets closer to the start of the program.
“That small difference makes a huge impact on our guest experience,” says Ross Hamilton. His works with JCI Hospitality. They represent hotels around the Red River district. He says the city council never consulted them about extending the hours. “That's one thing we are frustrated about,” he says, “we are invested in the neighborhood.”
Hamilton says he also believes that adding an extra hour will cut into their revenue. “We already know the guest complaints we get just having the noise up until midnight which is something we manage,” he says, adding, “we know those guest complaints will increase after midnight which will have a large impact on our business because of negative revues.”
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to address that through the program,” says Sternschein adding, “through the pilot study and come to some sort of arrangement that minimizes the impact of the hotels. And maximizes money and opportunities in the hands of Austin's artists.