ACL Festival cancellation serves another major blow to local businesses

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Limits Music Festival has been canceled for 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers wrote in a release Wednesday.

“We would have loved to put on another memorable show this year, however, with the uncertainty surrounding the current situation in Texas, this decision is the only responsible solution,” it wrote. “The health and safety of our fans, artists, partners, staff and the entire Austin community remains our highest priority.”

ACL Fest says it will return to Zilker Park during two weekends in October 2021, which will coincide with its 20th-anniversary celebration.

It says those who already bought tickets for this year should hold on to them “to lock in access to next year’s festival at 2019 prices,” or they can get a refund. It says current ticket holders should receive an email with guidance.

According to a study released last year, between 2006 and 2016 the festival brought almost $1.5 billion to Austin’s economy.

The group that puts on the festival says in 2019 alone, ACL Fest pumped $291 million into the Austin economy.

ACL Fest is among a number of large-scale events canceled in the past few months, or pre-emptively, because of the pandemic. In early March, Austin’s other famous festival, South by Southwest, was canceled. Austin had its first reported cases of the coronavirus March 13 — the day SXSW was set to begin.

“ACL is a fundamental loss because it’s a great brand for our city and a great driver of tourism,” said Visit Austin President and CEO Tom Noonan. “Last year, they were the primary driver downtown, so we know it brings a lot of hotel tax collection, probably $20 million in revenue for each weekend of ACL last year, that we won’t see.”

Noonan says with hotels already struggling, the city will feel the loss in lots of places.

“When the hotel tax is down, those things that we love in Austin, music and the ballet and the Zach theatre and other things like that, they’re losing funding as well,” he said.

Noonan says recently some leisure and business tourism was picking up again, but it began to drop when state orders shut down or scaled back many businesses.

“We were looking to have a pretty good Fourth of July weekend, and I think we’ve seen some reservations slipping over the last week or ten days,” he said. “Now, with this spike in the virus, we’re going to have to sit back for another two, three weeks, whatever that looks like, and we’ll see a dip in that again, and we’re going to have to be smarter when we come out.”

Visit Austin is encouraging the community to wear masks when out to help slow the spread of the virus, and to help support local businesses until they can fully open again.

“Go visit your favorite restaurant, either take takeout or socially distance and eat there. Go to your favorite local retailer, that’s really important. Go online, listen to musicians and leave money in the tip jar…those are the things we can do right now to really help our tourism industry,” Noonan said.

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