Downtown businesses working with city to meet safety rules for SXSW


AUSTIN (KXAN) — In just a few weeks, Austin streets will be filled with thousands of people for South by Southwest.

City officials and various agencies are working together to prepare for the annual event. That involves fire officials touching base with downtown business owners to make sure each venue is well equipped and prepared to entertain thousands of guests.

Bob Woody who owns several bars and restaurants in downtown told KXAN he received an email from Austin fire officials just last week that he’ll forward to the members of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance.

“It’s little things, but it’s things we take for granted,” Woody said. He went on to explain, “For example, the exit sign lit over there. We want to make sure it operates on a battery in case electricity went down.”

Woody is planning an all-day live music event for Tuesday, March 13. He said while Blind Pig can hold about 1,000 people, throughout the day and throughout the SXSW music week, as people filter in and out, he’s expecting 30,000 people to come through the venue.

“We’re very lucky,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can. We’ve got a fire alarm system, we got a fire sprinkler system and three sets of stairs, and because of all that, we get maximum occupancy.”

Another venue busy preparing for SXSW is Waterloo Records. Owner John Kunz said he’s setting up an outdoor stage for 28 acts performing over four days. He submitted his special event application back in September.

According to the Austin Center for Events website, hundreds of event organizers have submitted similar special permit applications. City officials told us they’ll have updated information on who’s been approved later this week.

In the meantime, the Downtown Austin Alliance is working with local, state and federal officials to get its safety messages out. Tuesday, the group met with its members and invited police and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials to come speak. Organizers said they wanted to emphasize the role everyone — venue owners, residents and concertgoers — play in keeping our community safe.

“[It’s] a good opportunity to remind people how important it is to prepare and plan for the worst that we hope never happens, but having plans in place certainly helps folks respond better,” Bill Brice, VP of Operations, said.

City officials said they cannot release their crisis response plans, but sent us a statement saying, “The city of Austin’s emergency responders are vigilant about monitoring potential public safety threats year-round. We continually work in collaboration with local, state and federal public safety partners to share information and refine emergency response plans and procedures.”

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