AUSTIN (KXAN) — People in north Austin are concerned about El Nocturno Night Club, saying they see it packed and that the people inside aren’t following the city’s COVID-19 guidelines.
This comes as Austin Public Health officials are reinforcing the importance of staying home over Thanksgiving weekend.
Some neighbors have called 311 on multiple occasions, concerned about the noise, the large crowds that gather and the possibility that a business in the area could become a coronavirus superspreader.
“I understand that they are probably getting hit worse than everyone else. Getting shut down, I feel sorry for the clubs. Something needs to be done to help them out, probably,” one neighbor told KXAN. “But I don’t know how many people they’ve probably spread COVID-19 to.”
Since May, the City of Austin has received 40 service requests at El Nocturno Night Club, ranging from coronavirus code violations to noise complaints. This past weekend, Austin code inspectors were dispatched to the club twice. An Austin Police Department officer also responded once. However, in all those instances, the city reports no code violations were observed.
“Our COVID-19 compliance teams operate on a complaint-based system for reporting violations. Potential violators need to be observed by a compliance team member to have violated a local Order or Rule in order to be considered in violation. We do not use video footage to prosecute individuals or businesses. Additionally, it must be clear that an individual or business is violating an Order or Rule, including occupancy and masking violations. Individuals observing a violation at a business should call 311 to report the violation.”City of Austin
Videos posted to El Nocturno’s Facebook page and timestamped from over the weekend show large crowds dancing with no masks on. Groups of people are seen huddled closely together.
The night club’s owner, Luis Sol, said he wasn’t aware of any of this happening. He said he wasn’t in town this past weekend. However, he felt confident that his staff were properly enforcing local ordinances.
“Everybody is wearing a mask. Everybody is sitting down. Nobody is dancing,” Sol said over the phone.
When KXAN’s Alex Caprariello pointed out discrepancies to him which can be seen in the videos, Sol said he would look into it further. Within minutes of ending that call, the videos were deleted from social media. Sol has given expressed permission for KXAN to use the videos located on the Facebook page in its reporting.
One video that remained on Facebook was a promotional advertisement for a live music event this Saturday. When asked about the inherent risk a mass-gathering might pose to the patrons and employees of the business, Sol said that it was too late to put a stop to the event since it had been already been promoted.
Instead, he promised to offer stricter guidelines to his patrons.
“I’ll make sure this weekend we lower the noise a little bit down, and we make sure everyone is wearing a mask from the coronavirus,” Sol said.
The City of Austin, meanwhile, is doubling down on its request that people remain home and avoid large gatherings over Thanksgiving weekend.
“With COVID-19 cases spiking in Austin, the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 is higher everywhere, but especially in gatherings where people are not maintaining distance or wearing a mask,” a city spokesperson said. “In order to keep our loved ones safe, Austin-Travis County residents need to avoid gatherings this holiday season.”
As for businesses that are operating without strictly enforcing the guidelines administered by public health officials, the city is asking business owners to accept responsibility and ensure their patrons are wearing masks and social distancing.