Round Rock plugs in

Nutty Brown Cafe & Amphitheatre will relocate to Round Rock from its current location off Hwy. 290 in Southwest Austin in 2017.

Nutty Brown Cafe & Amphitheatre will relocate to Round Rock from its current location off Hwy. 290 in Southwest Austin in 2017.

Nutty Brown Cafe & Amphitheatre will pack up its iconic cowboy sign and more than a decade of Texas music history and bring them to Round Rock in 2017.

On Aug. 13, Round Rock City Council approved the sale of McNeil Park near I-35 in north Round Rock to Mike Farr, owner of Nutty Brown Cafe, for $1.1 million. That day the city also announced the intended use for the land was for the new home of Nutty Brown Cafe, which will be Round Rock’s first large outdoor music venue.

The country music venue has hosted acts such as Pat Green, Bob Schneider and Eli Young Band. Currently the venue holds about 3,900 people, according to city of Austin documents, but Farr said when he moves to Round Rock he expects the capacity to increase to about 5,000.

Farr said he has thought for years Round Rock would make a good location for a music venue.

“I always thought Round Rock was underserved as far as live music goes,” Farr said. “It was always a place I thought had a lot of potential.”

Coming to Round Rock


About two years ago, Farr said he started considering relocating out of his current location on Hwy. 290 in Southwest Austin.

“When things started changing at my current location and I decided to start more aggressively looking for an opportunity to relocate, Round Rock was my first choice from day one,” he said.

Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B acquired the land Nutty Brown Cafe sits on in 2015. Farr said H-E-B allowed him to stay on the land as long as he wanted. He said he wanted to relocate to attract bigger acts, and the decision was “100 percent” his idea. [polldaddy poll=9055571]

“I decided I was ready to move,” Farr said. “To have a big corporation like H-E-B say you can stay or go is extraordinary. [...] They’ve been extraordinary partners to work with.”

Finding the right spot


Farr said he drove to more than 100 locations in the area looking for potential spots for Nutty Brown Cafe. He said he wanted to put the new location at McNeil Park as soon as he saw it.

“For someone doing what I do for a living you look at land like that, and you just know it’s perfect,” he said. “It’s long and skinny and lays out nicely.”

Farr said he did not know if the city was willing to sell the land. But in May 2006, Round Rock residents voted to authorize the sale of McNeil Park at a later date, according to city records. Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said the vote to authorize the sell of McNeil Park was partly how the city planned to fund the forthcoming improved softball fields at Old Settlers Park. He said McNeil Park’s location on I-35, its older facilities and the need to fund the new softball fields were why the city wanted to sell the park.

McGraw said it took nine years to sell the park partly because of unfavorable market conditions driven by the recession. He said more recently city officials discussed selling the park, then Farr approached them about possibly moving Nutty Brown Cafe to the area. McGraw said city officials then worked with Farr to help him find a possible location.

Farr said he did look at city-owned property in downtown Round Rock at the former Builders Gypsum Supply location, but it did not have the same greenery and natural appeal.

He said the location near I-35 and University Boulevard would help Nutty Brown Cafe attract new customers from different areas such as Fort Hood or Taylor. He said the destination shopping nearby will help further attract attention.

“There’s not a single person in Central Texas who doesn’t know where IKEA is,” he said. “When you say we’re right south of IKEA, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about.”

The new Nutty Brown


Farr said when the new venue is built, as many trees and as much green space as possible will be kept to preserve the site’s natural aesthetics.

“We’re going to take an extraordinarily minimal approach when it comes to site improvement,” Farr said. “We basically just want it to be a park that has shows. We’re not going to turn it into some concreted-up, commercial-looking deal.”

Farr said Nutty Brown Cafe’s current location is noted for its aesthetic beauty, and he wanted to retain that at the new location.

“I’ve been blessed with an unbelievably attractive piece of land to operate on the past 13 years with tons of oak trees, lots of shade and good topography,” he said. “I actually think [the new location will] be a lot prettier than my current location.”

Farr said he hopes to attract bigger acts by moving farther away from well-known music venues, such as WhiteWater Amphitheater in New Braunfels.

“Being less than 50 miles away from WhiteWater there are lots of shows I have to schedule around each other,” he said. “Being in Round Rock I’ll be further away from some of the bigger venues—it’ll just open up a lot things for me.”

Farr said Nutty Brown Cafe is a family-friendly music venue, and he intends to keep it that way in Round Rock.

“We strongly encourage our artists to have a family-friendly approach,” he said.

Randy Rogers, lead vocalist for Randy Rogers Band, said Farr gave him one of his first breaks in the music industry. Rogers said he is glad Nutty Brown Cafe is relocating and not being forced to close like other Austin music venues.

“There’s a lot of places that don’t get that chance [to relocate],” Rogers said. “They just get knocked down and go away.”

City impact


McGraw said the venue will foremost be a quality-of-life improvement for Round Rock residents.

“It’s an iconic music venue that now we will have in our own backyard,” McGraw said. “I can’t tell you how many texts I’ve [received] that said, ‘Congrats,’ ‘Wow,’ or ‘This is exactly what Round Rock has needed.’”

McGraw said city officials had not pursued a music venue before because a venue is not traditionally considered an economic development target. But despite that, he said he foresees Nutty Brown Cafe having a positive economic impact on the city.

“[The economic impact] is very much in line with the ‘Sports Capital of Texas’ [branding]—bring people here, let them shop and then go home,” he said.


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