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East Sixth outdoor music venue seeking expanded hours

Monday, October 15, 2012 by Kimberly Reeves

The Austin Music Commission last week gave tentative approval to Cheer Up Charlie’s effort to seek an outdoor music venue permit, but the approval was conditional. The commission’s discussion also revealed weaknesses in the process to get venue permits.

 

Cheer Up Charlie’s has been limited in the hours it can offer live music, the result of the failure of the venue at 1104 East Sixth Street to secure agreements with surrounding neighborhoods. For now, live music must stop at 8pm on weeknights and 10pm on weekends. Even within those limited hours, however, the city has gotten complaints about the venue, one complaint as recently as last week for an indoor band performance.

 

“The door opens and shuts,” noted Tamara Hoover, who owns the popular club with Brigid Shea, who lost a bid for mayor in May. “It’s Sixth Street, and we have bands. There’s going to be some noise coming from our space. It’s not going to be a sleepy bar.”

 

Asked about the inability to get agreements with surrounding neighborhoods, Hoover had to admit that a certain amount of mistrust existed.

 

“I think we made some mistakes early on, and I think we’ve done a lot to prove we’re doing better,” Hoover said. “We don’t have outside shows right now because we can’t meet the terms of the permit. We do have shows inside, and we’ve completely changed our booking so we have more daytime than nighttime events.”

 

Commissioners weren’t necessarily going to go easy on Hoover, but Vice Chair Joah Spearman and Commissioner Rich Garza noted how ambiguous the code was about getting agreements and with whom. As Carol Gibbs from the Neighborhood Planning & Development Review Department told the commissioners, almost any group – or even an individual – can claim status as a neighborhood association – which can leave a venue negotiating with anyone and no one.

 

“We shook some hands. We met with neighbors. We thought that was it,” said Hoover. “We feel like we fulfilled quite a bit of the city’s requirements to mitigate. We felt like if we went around and got support from the neighbors, we are complying. We’re doing our part.”

 

Cheer Up Charlie’s has received a couple of objections from within 600 feet of its club location at East Sixth and Waller streets. But as Garza pointed out its location leaves it in a no man’s land between East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Association and the Guadalupe Association for Improvement of the Neighborhood (GAIN).

 

David Murray of the city’s Music Office pointed out 14 venues had acquired outdoor-music venue permits since the city created the permits in February 2011. The provision in the code that allows extended hours requires an agreement, although Spearman pointed out that the terms under those agreements weren’t always clear.

 

Hoover said she was more than willing to cut back on the hours of outdoor music at her venue, from every night to only Friday and Saturday night. That would be four to six hours a week of live music, rather than the 12 allowed under a permit.

 

“We really want to show that we’re trying to compromise,” Hoover said. “We’re trying to make friendships.”

 

Commissioners agreed that an agreement with nearby neighborhood associations ought to be the key to opening up hours for live music at Cheer Up Charlie’s. That would be negotiating some actual agreements with GAIN and the East Cesar Chavez association. Garza said Hoover’s solution was reasonable and should be strongly considered.

 

“The win in this situation is getting these neighbors on board,” said Chair Brad Spies. “I don’t know if that’s a trial period, something where you say you’re gong to try something out, go until midnight. Getting consensus with the neighbors on something like that is the win.”

 

Commissioners did not sign off on Cheer Up Charlie’s permit because that authority lies with Council, which is expected to hear the case on Nov. 1. They did support Cheer Up Charlie’s negotiating with neighborhood groups to come up with a feasible solution.

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