Austin businesses still expecting extra crowds during what would’ve been SXSW


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following the cancellation of South by Southwest, the City of Austin is laying out guidelines for any mass gathering, warning that it may cancel large events that could put the community at risk.

This comes as some businesses are planning to still take advantage of tourists coming in over the next couple of weeks.

BACKGROUND: SXSW canceled amid COVID-19 concerns

“We’re not expecting it to go to zero, where it would be a regular week,” said Lucky Robot owner Adam Weisberg. “I think we’re expecting to see a little bit of a bump. What it is, we have no idea.”

But Weisberg says he’s still over-staffing his restaurant in anticipation of big crowds during what would usually be SXSW. He says businesses are expecting that a lot of people won’t cancel their flights, and will still come to town just to enjoy what Austin has to offer.

As a precaution, Wiesberg says he’s implemented mandatory 20 second handwashing for every staff member every 30 minutes. He says the restaurant is informing customers that the extra handwashing breaks could impact service times slightly.

Wiesberg’s team is still putting up Lucky Robot’s cherry blossom installation, which was set to be on display at the same time as SXSW. The hope is that it will draw people in while they’re in town.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler says the city won’t stop all events outside of SXSW.

“Activity in this city’s going to continue,” Adler told KXAN Monday.

As of right now, shows or events that will draw less than 2,500 people are allowed to go on. Anything larger than that will have to work with the city, which will ultimately decide whether the event is safe.

Large events with dense crowds, and too few toilets or handwashing stations likely won’t make the cut. Organizers also have to come up with special plans to handle people’s needs, should someone become ill.

“We recognize that that decision’s going to hurt some of the restaurants and bars and clubs and small businesses in our town, but that we’re all pulling together, wanting to do everything we could to help mitigate that injury,” Adler said.

As of right now, dozens of shows and events that were scheduled to coincide with South by Southwest are still set to go on over the next week and a half.

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