Austin’s COVID-19 surge has some New Year’s Eve party planners scrambling

Business

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thomas Gohring’s booking team has been planning for New Year’s Eve at Kick Butt Coffee for months.

“It’s a huge thing. We’ve been doing it like, four or five years now in a row. It’s always one of our best events of the year,” said Gohring, the owner.

But five days before the big event, his booking manager, Dan Mesich, texted him.

“‘Hey, the headliners dropped, and other bands are probably going to drop, too,'” Gohring recalled.

Mesich was right. He said eight bands out of 15 have canceled, either out of COVID-19 precautions or because their band members have caught the virus.

“We were supposed to do a two-stage, 15 band punk rock blow out,” Mesich wrote to KXAN. “It is brutal that this is happening at this time with how spotty business has been this year.”

He was able to call in house bands to fill some of the lineup gaps. The team is working on an updated ad, but the show will be a little smaller and on one stage.

Gohring expects his revenue from the night to be cut roughly in half.

“Kind of ruined things for us and other venues, of course, to have one our biggest events just kind of get gutted,” Gohring said.

The venue skipped its bash last year due to COVID-19, and Mesich said October was the first month of somewhat normal business — more than two shows a week with no cancelations.

The Paramount Theatre said its event, Bob Schneider’s New Year’s Eve Party, is also still on — with proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination that will be cross-checked with your ID.

Others like the City of Manor, have decided to cancel their celebration, which was also supposed to be the city’s 150th birthday bash.

“It was going to be carnival games, food vendors, fireworks show and concert,” said Manor Police Chief Ryan Phipps.

He said the planning committee had been organizing the event for close to a year.

“The fact that Travis County did move us to Stage 4 on the COVID scale also played a factor in our decision,” Phipps said.

ACL Live scrapped its New Year’s Eve show after the Austin-based headliner, Spoon, announced COVID-19 cases among artists, and the sharp rise in cases in the community.

Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes told KXAN canceling could help the community in a big way moving forward.

“If they’re, they’re going to do what it takes to help us get this done — hats off,” she said. “The flip side of that is that if we don’t do something, we’re going to have a situation where businesses may have trouble staying open, because they have too many employees who are ill. So this is really crunch time.”

The City of Austin is still hosting a New Year’s Eve fireworks show from Vic Mathias Shores at 10 p.m. on Friday. Health leaders are asking people not to gather in large groups and view the event from a distance.

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