Austin after hours: Police watching late-night clubs closely

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — At 1:18 early Saturday morning, Sgt. Al Garibay of the Austin Police Department started running.

“We got one with a gunshot wound at 6th and Sabine,” he’d told us after listening through his earpiece.

Three blocks from the heart of the 6th Street Entertainment District, where thousands were gathered, was a 17 year old in critical condition. It came after a ‘gun battle’ between two groups, which prompted an APD officer to fire his own weapon. Police have not yet said whether the teen was shot by the officer or someone else.

Sgt. Al Garibay of the Austin Police Department runs toward the scene of Saturday's early morning shooting, with a KXAN photographer behind (KXAN Photo/Kevin Clark)
Sgt. Al Garibay of the Austin Police Department runs toward the scene of Saturday’s early morning shooting, with a KXAN photographer behind (KXAN Photo/Kevin Clark)

This is the latest in a string of shootings in Austin’s Downtown Entertainment District this year. Back in June, a man was killed and 14 others were injured in a mass shooting on 6th Street.

For Sgt. Garibay and other patrols, last Saturday’s early morning incident reflects how the night can change in an instant.

Two hours earlier, he’d told our KXAN crew: “Based on the crowd right now, I think we’re going to have a happy crowd with few disturbances. That’s my forecast for the night.”

We initially tagged along with APD’s Downtown Area Command Friday night into Saturday morning due to their concern over “after-hours clubs.”

One of them in particular is Tellers, which police described as the site of violent offenses from “assaults, robberies and even shootings.”

Tellers is located on Trinity Street, near 7th (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)
Tellers is located on Trinity Street, near 7th (KXAN Photo/Tim Holcomb)

Austin Police have written 47 crime reports tied to the Trinity Street address so far in 2021, more than the previous three years combined.

“That was a bar that typically generated a lot of calls for us after bar hours,” said Sgt. Garibay. “A lot of disturbances took place in front of their bars.”

After our initial report last month, Tellers closed temporarily but appeared to reopen Saturday morning with lines of people.

“Typically, right after we open up the street, you see a sea of people starting to line up,” said Sgt. Garibay.

We have not heard back from the owner of the property where Tellers is located, but the head of APD’s Downtown Command said he has an open dialogue with the business.

Commander Jeff Greenwalt told KXAN Tellers is now opening later, and things have been better since the club reopened.

Austin Police reports tied to Tellers' address, by year.
Austin Police reports tied to Tellers’ address, by year.

“The Austin Police Department and the owners of Tellers have an open dialogue and are working together to resolve any safety issues in the area,” he said. “We are working together to find a solution for the business to be successful and safe moving forward.”

After our initial story about Tellers, police told us they’d also been responding frequently to a hookah lounge called Swing on 7th Street. They added issues from earlier in the year had improved.

“It’s been over two months since we last spoke, and I have been monitoring the call volume at your business,” said an APD detective in an August email to Swing’s owner. “It looks like you have been doing a good job with keeping police issues at the location very low. I wanted to know if there was any other steps you took since our meeting to mitigate the problems that had previously taken place at the location.”

Swing’s owner tells us the business has established safety protocols including additional security for all access points and a zero-tolerance policy for violence, drugs or weapons. She added her hookah lounge operates until 5 a.m., within legal hours for these businesses in Texas, and that Swing is “BYOB.”

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