AUSTIN (KXAN) — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett joined the Austin music community Thursday night to officially reopen the Red River District.
“Our live music is the life blood of our culture and life blood of our economy,” Doggett said. “I know so many artists who have suffered and even the most stable and successful businesses, like Mohawk, have suffered greatly.”
Most live music venues closed during the pandemic. Many started making plans to reopen earlier this month, as vaccination rates increased in Austin-Travis County.
The doors at Mohawk opened for the venue’s first live, in-person concert since March 12, 2020 on Thursday. Owner James Moody said there are some COVID-19 precautions for the night’s event.
“We actually only sold tonight for less than half capacity for a reason. So, we’re starting out conservatively to give people room to move around,” he explained.
Moody said they’re trying to keep everyone safe this way, including their much-needed staff members.
“It’s not just our customers, it’s also our staff… we want everyone to get comfortable at their own pace. And we don’t want to rush into anything,” he said.
Jeanette Gregor was the first employee hired back after more than a year.
“The hopelessness that our music community has been feeling is deeply personal to me,” said Gregor, Mohawk manager. “Knowing that we had and have allies like the congressman fighting for our survival has been paramount: when our stages went silent, they amplified our voices that would have otherwise not been heard. He has helped us (and hundreds of other venues like us) find the critical funding we needed to say, once again, ‘All Are Welcome.’”
Moody said he honestly has no idea how the venue survived the pandemic, but the community rallied around Mohawk in enough to keep them open. That in addition to state and federal support helped pull them through.
“You go through a depression phase or grief or whatever it is then once you get out of that, you go to problem solving,” Moody said.
The venue has applied for additional funds and is now waiting for the federal government to release its money from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.
This is only a small step in the bigger picture, though.
“It’s mostly because opening a club is just half the battle to actually feeling like you’re back on track. Opening is just one part. At our club in particular, and most clubs in town, the margins are really tight, and the overhead is significant, so you have to work at volume in order to make the economics work,” he said.
Moody explained opening at partial capacity with partially-booked months is actually not a good business model, but it’s a start to getting back to normal.
Now, he’s looking forward to seeing how the demand for live events takes shape into the summer, fall and spring of next year.