How music, nightlife in Austin will look next week after new order lifting COVID-19 restrictions goes into effect

Business

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance says all members they’ve heard from so far will be expanding to 100% capacity next week.

When Gov. Greg Abbott’s mandate removal takes effect next Wednesday, they also say they won’t require masks.

“You know, it’s very good,” said Bob Woody, board chair of TBNA.

Woody owns 28 properties in Austin and manages 13 of them. He says he’s thankful for Abbott’s move to lift occupancy and mask restrictions.

“I’ve had to borrow money; I’ve had to not pay dividends. I’ve had to take no paycheck for a long time,” Woody said.

Starting next week, all his properties — which include more than a dozen bars — will return to full occupancy with no masking rules.

“If you want to come in with one, if you want to take it off, have a drink, put it back on, it’s fine. I have no, no problem with that. I’m not going to wear one, and I’m not going to require anybody to wear one,” Woody said.

That includes The Blind Pig Pub, Shakespeare’s Pub and Buford’s.

But not everyone in Austin’s nightlife industry is as eager to fully reopen just yet.

“I would like to say it’s good news, but you know, maybe two or three months down the line, and we have more of our population vaccinated, and people are feeling safe to get out again, then we can call it good news,” said Patrick Buchta, executive director of Austin Texas Musicians, a nonprofit group. “Right now it’s interesting to be quite honest, and we’re all scrambling to figure out how to respond to this in a safe way.”

Buchta says many of his roughly 5,000 Facebook members have decided to carry on the way they have been — whether that’s been taking the stage or staying home.

“The ones who maybe aren’t comfortable taking those gigs yet, aren’t going to do it. And we’re hearing the same thing from a lot of our venue partners as well,” he said.

Venues like Elephant Room and The Saxon Pub say they won’t be reopening.

A message on Stubb’s Bar-B-Q’s website says the facility will be open seven days a week starting next Wednesday, when the statewide mandates will officially be removed. It is unclear, however, if the long-time Austin fixture will still require masks.

A screenshot of Stubb’s website shows an alert stating that the venue will soon be open seven days a week.

In the meantime, Buchta is working on updating their safety guidelines for musicians and venues.

“So that when they come together and start to work on these transactions together, they know what questions to ask each other, so they can reengage in the space in a safe way,” Buchta said.

Woody says while he’s already booking more gigs at his facilities, they’ll be keeping their band policy in place, which is being distanced from the audience.

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