At Thursday’s City Council meeting, stakeholders, including city staff, club owners and neighborhood advocates, all provided positive reviews of the Red River Cultural District Extended Hours pilot program, which has been in effect since May 1. The success of the program pleased council members enough to approve a six-month program extension through May 1, 2018.
The pilot program sought to meet the needs of a music and arts economy struggling with rising rents and lower revenues and of a growing downtown residential population struggling to endure the bleeding sound of the downtown entertainment district.
The program allows outdoor music venues in the Red River Cultural District to extend the outdoor live music curfew from 11 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays and from midnight to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Venue owners said later music means more revenue, which would allow them to keep up with rent and increase their pay to local artists. However, the venues would have to strengthen their sound mitigation efforts so as not to affect residents living in the area.
According to a memo sent to council last week from Kevin Johns of the Economic Development Department, the data has proved the program successful.
“The results so far show the venues earning more revenue, venue staff and local musicians getting paid more, sound impact being managed effectively, and significantly improved communication and relationships between venues and nearby neighborhoods,” Johns said.
The memo shows data comparing May to August 2016 and May to August 2017. The data shows a 3 percent increase in gross ticket sales, a 5 percent increase amount paid to venue staff, a 10 percent increase in the number of local and regional acts booked and 22 percent increase in the amount paid to local musicians. There was, however, a 13 percent decrease in the total number of tickets sold.
In January when City Council passed the pilot program, Mary Ingle, president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, objected to extended music hours. On Thursday, she voiced strong support for the program. She said she thought it was “unlikely” that it would work but was “happy to be in favor of the pilot program.”
Ryan Garrett, general manager of Stubb’s BBQ, lauded the program and said it has brought positive results for his venue.
Mayor Steve Adler said he was glad to see the program succeed, as it was a key component of the Music and Creative Arts Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution—a mission approved by City Council to assist the health of the city’s struggling music and creative arts community.
Though the council approved an extension through May 1, they directed the city manager to bring back language to make the pilot program permanent as early as February.