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Austin gives its support to black-owned restaurants following protests—a lot of support. And it's sticking.
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When Burgerlicious, a food truck stationed at Skull Mechanix Brewery in the St. Elmo district, reopened in late May, post-pandemic sales were not good.
"I think one day we sold two burgers," owner Vernetta Weston said. "The next day, we might have sold like four or five burgers, and this was a Friday and Saturday."
But then, almost as quickly as the coronavirus forced the local business to close for two-and-a-half months, the tables turned again.
"The next week, everything happened. Everybody started rallying behind the Black Lives Matter movement, and the lists started going up," Weston said. "My phone was ringing off the hook."
In response to the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin, thousands of residents joined protests—and they sought out black-owned businesses to support.
Jane Ko, a local influencer who runs the blog A Taste of Koko, published a widely shared list of black-owned restaurants on June 1. Similar round-ups appeared in Austin Monthly, Eater and other outlets.
Austin residents turned up in droves.
"I haven't been this busy since EVER!" Sassy's Vegetarian Soul Food owner Andrea Dawson posted on the food truck's Facebook page last week. "Had to turn away customers … first time that ever happened."
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Last Sunday, Taste of Ethiopia closed its South Congress location after selling out.
That same day, Bird Bird Biscuit closed so its staff could rest.
"Thank you so, so, so, so much for all the support that you've shown us over this past week," Bird Bird Biscuit chef and co-founder Brian Batch said in a video update posted to Instagram. "It's been so much support that we actually are going to have to take a little break and regroup."
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Burgerlicious saw a similar influx. "We had orders pouring in, and we were able to get enough product," Weston said. "We filled the truck up to the rafters."
Nearly all of the orders—86%—were from new customers. "It was faces that we hadn't seen," she said.
In response, Burgerlicious expanded its opening hours to include Wednesday and introduced a vegan menu. Sales held steady, even as the new customer rate dropped to 43%, suggesting that many had returned from the week prior.
"We really feel like it's building a base, and then the customers will continue to come back because the food is good," Weston said.
For Burgerlicious, this support comes at exactly the right time. The pandemic delayed plans to open a second food truck and a brick-and-mortar location. But the outpouring of support related to the Black Lives Matter movement is helping the local business recoup its losses and expand its customer base. "There's a silver lining in everything," she said.
Moving forward, Weston hopes to see more investment in minority-owned businesses in Austin. "I think the biggest barrier is capital," she said, adding that she'd like for the city to offer more grants, banks to extend loans "not wrapped up in red tape" and landlords to welcome black owners in upscale spaces. "We're trying to get our foot in the door, and then the door's closed," she said.
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Police have arrested one of two suspects involved in a mass shooting at Austin's Sixth Street in the early morning hours on Saturday, leaving 14 people injured and two in critical condition.
The arrest was made by the Austin Police Department and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force. One suspect is still at large.
Police started receiving 911 phone calls at 1:24 a.m about a man that fired shots into a large crowd, and responded to a chaotic scene on the 400 block of East Sixth Street. Detectives are surveying video footage captured by bystanders and cameras on the scene to identify the suspect.
The Austin Police Department has narrowed down their search to two male suspects and believes there was "some type of disturbance" between the two parties.
No deaths have been reported. Fourteen victims are receiving treatment in a hospital in stable condition with one treated in an emergency room; two are in critical condition.
According to Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon, "almost all" of the victims are innocent bystanders but police have not ruled anyone out at this time.
Shooting on 6th Street Austin Texas 6-12-2021 (Aftermath) youtu.be
The shooting occurred on the weekend of the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally. With lots of people downtown, police say it was difficult to get EMS in and out of the scene. Police arrived while the scene was still an "active threat," officers "immediately began lifesaving measures" and drove six victims to the hospital in their squad cars, said Chacon, and four were transported in ambulances.
Chacon said that the incident is believed to be isolated, and they optimistic they will be successful in getting the two suspects into custody. Multiple departments, including APD, the FBI, Texas DPS and the ATF, are involved in the investigation.
Austin police are also requesting state troopers for patrol assistance in the coming days. Chacon stressed staffing issues are increasingly making responding to emergency calls "very hard."
"Overall, we remain a safe city," Chacon said. "Also keep in mind when you come downtown, you need to be safety conscious. Be vigilant of your environment and your surroundings."
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call 911 or 512-472-TIPS.
This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. to include new information and will be updated as more details are revealed.
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Austin police are investigating a homicide in North Austin where a woman was shot and killed, just hours after a mass shooting in Downtown Austin hospitalized 14 people.
APD is working a suspicious death near the 1900 block of W Rundberg Ln. PIO is en route and will update with media staging location. PIO6
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) June 12, 2021
Police originally responded to Ironhorse Flats Apartments, 1900 block of W. Rundberg Lane, at 3:20 p.m. when they found the woman with multiple gunshot wounds. She was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 4:07 p.m.
No one is in custody as of yet but police are speaking with potential witnesses. Officials said they believe this was an isolated incident with no danger to the public but said possible relation to the downtown shooting has not been specifically ruled out.
Officers could not provide a suspect description and the relationship to the victim is still unknown.
This is a developing story that will be updated as details become available.
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