Businesses are finding ways to extend Austin’s live music scene beyond downtown.
In Southwest Austin, businesses have added the traditional music stage to food trucks, full-service restaurants, gourmet local coffee, wine bars, children’s playgrounds, distilling operations and big-box retail centers.
Upcoming developments, such as mixed-use project Saint Elmo near South Congress Avenue and Ben White Boulevard, give music venue space prominence in a large, mixed-use campus, and older businesses, including shopping center Southpark Meadows on I-35 and Cherry Creek Catfish Restaurant on Manchaca Road, include the performance space as an additional feature to their primary functions.
Developers and business owners said live music in Southwest Austin has arrived for several reasons, from Central Austin’s arts scene to Southwest Austin’s population of families.
New, upcoming developments
The new Saxon Pub will the main entry point to the new planned Saint Elmo development, which will feature a public food market, office space, a hotel and residential space. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
Developer Brandon Bolin said he wanted to include a musical aspect to the urban development because he himself is a musician, and music is a part of Austin’s culture.
The venue, described by Bolin as a “mini-Moody Theater,” will seat 300-400 people.
A smaller-scale complex with a wine bar and outdoor stage is in the works on Manchaca Road. Indian Roller, the existing indoor lounge and indoor stage portion of the property, celebrated its one-year anniversary in late October, General Manager Rene Stokes said.
“We wanted something that brought more of South Austin back,” Stokes said. “We see a lot changing downtown that’s getting a little Dallas-y and L.A.-ish. So we want a place where everyone feels welcome but you can still get a cocktail or draft beer, and we always provide free live music. ”
The outdoor stage, She Wolf, is still in development, Stokes said.
On South Lamar Boulevard, Patika Wine and Coffee also celebrated a one-year anniversary in September. The business offers local coffee and in-house baked goods during the day, and curated wine and craft beer with food and acoustic live music during the evening. Patika is located inside a building built in the 1940s that makes for a “super cozy listening room” experience, owner Andy Wigginton said.
Several businesses in the Southwest Austin area that opened in 2015 also included live music with their offerings.
Treaty Oak Ranch, Treaty Oak Distilling Co.’s mixed-use entertainment hub on Fitzhugh Road in Dripping Springs, opened in September. Treaty Oak Ranch offers tours of the distillery, a tasting room, play area, dog park, food truck park and live music.
The Rusty Mule on Hwy. 290 opened in March featuring an outdoor bar and live music stage with food trucks and a playground.
Targeting area families
At Southpark Meadows, Paramount Event Services has organized concerts, Christmas shows and other activities at The Grove, an outdoor, tree-shaded stage in the center of the retail, movie theater and dining complex.
Steve Monistere, president of Paramount Event Services, said the company experimented with producing different types of musical events in 2002 before figuring out there was a family-friendly audience in Southwest Austin.
“I needed to figure out what South Austin wanted,” Monistere said. “We knew what the music scene was like as you moved into the city and north of it, but South Austin was growing with different demographics.”
Cherry Creek Catfish Restaurant, serving seafood and regional Texas fare, also targets family audiences with a live band every Friday and Saturday.
Co-owner David Mossell said live music at the seafood restaurant was introduced on a limited basis in 2011 and its success prompted the business to offer it regularly, Mossell said.
“I talked with [co-owner Danny Lenertz] and said, ‘You know, this is the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ and we should have music all the time,” he said.
Mike Farr, the owner of longtime Southwest Austin country music venue Nutty Brown Café and Amphitheatre, said when Austin used to be a college town, the music audience went to downtown venues such as Liberty Lunch and Antone’s, both of which are now closed.
Now that Austinites have moved out of the downtown core and started families, Farr included, the audience wants a place where they can sit down and eat with family while still being able to watch and hear live music, Farr said.
“I felt like, if you want to keep an aging demographic dialed in to what you were offering, it was good to have food and expand the concert footprint [at Nutty Brown],” Farr said.
The business of music venues
On Slaughter Lane, Satellite Bistro & Bar has paired live music with dining since 2006. Co-owner Mark Kamburis said, as a music lover himself, adding live music to the restaurant gave him a creative outlet.
Before launching Satellite Bistro & Bar in the Circle C neighborhood, Kamburis owned a coffee shop in Central Austin that hosted live music called Flipnotics Coffeespace Café. Having the cafe background, the Satellite owners wanted to continue live music as part of who they were culturally, Kamburis said.
Kamburis said he researched how many restaurants in Austin that are similar to Satellite Bistro & Bar have live music and found out that there were “just a small handful.”
“I used to wonder why more [restaurants] didn’t have music when we started out in the 1990s,” Kamburis said. “I can say it’s not that easy, and it does add costs to a restaurant some do not want to bear.”
[polldaddy poll=9196274]Changes in live music are a byproduct of major live entertainment production companies owning venue concepts that serve food and drinks while hosting live entertainment, Monistere said. By owning the venue, the company can gain revenue from parking and other sources to keep up with the rising cost of operations, he said.
“That shuts down the local, small club owner; they can’t compete,” Monistere said.
Ryan Garrett, general manager of Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, a 20-year-old downtown music venue and full-service barbecue restaurant with catering service, said it is a good idea to have food and alcohol concessions, but the concessions are not a complete necessity for a music venue to operate. The success of a music venue is dependent on the touring climate, if enough bands are on tour at a time to book, Garrett said.
“If you’re just a music venue, you can make it, though it’s risky,” Garrett said.
Stubb’s recently expanded into Southwest Austin on Hwy. 290 with a kitchen and dining area at Graceland Grocery, an indoor and outdoor coffee shop, bar and convenience store. The outdoor area has room for a music stage, but Stubb’s and Graceland Grocery have no immediate plans for hosting live music because of noise concerns, Garrett said.
Farr, one of the co-owners of Graceland Grocery, said he closed the restaurant portion of Nutty Brown on Oct. 25 because of operating costs. Food trucks park at the venue now.
When Farr added the restaurant component to Nutty Brown, he received comments from other music venues that it would not work, Farr said.
“I was told people won’t come and spend money on dinner and a ticket,” Farr said.