This limestone rock wall will be chiseled and the trees removed.[/caption]
Construction officially started June 22 on the new Hyatt House hotel next to a popular Red River Street music venue, which now has doubts about its future.
Owners of Cheer Up Charlie’s, 900 Red River St., claim the construction will obstruct part of their outdoor venue's rock wall and turn the back stage into a partial construction zone for up to 18 months.
Cheer Up Charlie’s relocated downtown from East Austin in 2013 and quickly achieved popularity throughout the community, according to Maggie Lea, co-owner of the bar. Lea said the gay-friendly bar has become known for its lush greenery and natural rock amphitheater, which hosts live music shows and events nightly. However, due to the hotel construction immediately west of Cheer Up Charlie's, a portion of the amphitheater will be chiseled away and the trees will be removed, Lea said.
“The main moneymaker for a bar is 50 percent alcohol and 50 percent vibe,” Lea said. “This construction will affect the vibe and take away from that live music experience.”
Seven days prior to construction starting, Cheer Up Charlie’s owners were given notice they would need to accommodate a plywood and chain-link fence through their outdoor area, according to Lea. The notice cited safety concerns for the added security, especially while Hyatt construction crews remove boulders and other limestone pieces from the rock wall to make room for a parking garage being built behind and above Cheer Up Charlie’s. This limestone destruction has not only angered frequent Cheer Up Charlie's visitors but also local Austinites as well, Lea said.
The outdoor venue covered by the parachute canopy.[/caption]
Lea and co-owner Tamara Hoover have discussed possible legal action with a lawyer; however, they say their lease on the land limits their options. The lease states the landlord can do whatever he or she wants to the space regardless of the tenant's opinion. This news came as a shock to Lea and Hoover, who said they did not realize such strict language was included in their lease.
However, in a recent Twitter post from Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, she stated, “Cheer Up Charlie’s and rock wall are assets to Red River cultural district, and we must support these businesses as city changes.” Despite this support from an elected official, the city's Public Works Department claims the site plan application for the Hyatt House project has been under review by the city since September.
Since 2014, the city of Austin has required construction applicants to submit a geotechnical engineering report of their excavation plan, a process already completed by Hyatt House officials, according to a Public Works Department spokesperson. Furthermore, the spokesperson said notification of the application for the site plan had been sent to everyone who owns property within 500 feet of the site boundary and approved before construction could occur. Both of these tasks were carried out according to city code, according to the city spokesperson.
But what damage this work may have on Cheer Up Charlie's remains uncertain, according to ownership.
“Some people have said the situation isn’t that bad,” Lea said. “I think we will lose half of our business, profit-wise, each week.”
Hyatt House officials released the following statement regarding the now-ongoing construction:
"The unique and dynamic culture of this neighborhood is what draws Hyatt to this part of Austin, and we want to do everything we can to be great neighbors to those establishments that make the neighborhood so unique. Along with Journeyman Group, the Austin-based property developer, we’ve worked carefully with the city and property owners to create construction plans specifically designed to avoid any disruption to the local music venues and to ensure the upcoming Hyatt House hotel can make a positive contribution to the neighborhood alongside the existing six Hyatt-branded hotels throughout Austin. We certainly want to ensure the development supports the local businesses near the hotel."