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It's no secret that COVID-19 has put businesses' longevity to the test this year, sending bars, restaurants and local businesses like Buffalo Billiards, Threadgill's, The Bazaar and Capitol City Comedy packing. With no end in sight, these businesses have either announced their closure or are asking for help.
Baretto, a wine bar located on 10710 Research Blvd, will also close its doors due to an H-E-B expansion causing the bar to lose its lease. With short notice and nowhere else to go, Baretto said on Facebook that it was being "forced out" of its home shopping center and that it is "not a casualty of the shutdown." Baretto said they are looking to relocate but until then, the bar will close its doors on Nov. 30.
Brick Oven Austin
After 38 years of business, pizza restaurant Brick Oven Austin, located on 10710 Research Blvd. in the same center as Baretto, announced in a blog titled "2020 is the worst," it would close its doors permanently, citing the same H-E-B expansion as Baretto that would cause the business to lose it's lease. The restaurant has had a rough year; Brick Oven Austin also closed its downtown location in March due to nearby businesses expanding, making it infeasible for the chain to stay. The Arboretum location will remain open until Nov. 30 for dine-in and takeout, noting also to stay on the lookout for discounts and that it is on the "hunt for viable alternatives."
Three years after its opening, punk rock-inspired brunch restaurant and cocktail bar Holy Roller, located on 509 Rio Grande St., will bid Austin farewell this weekend. The restaurant was famous for its creative cocktails and biscuits, serving up comfort food in a charming atmosphere. Holy Roller will host a final brunch this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Austin's longest-standing vegetarian restaurant, Mother's Cafe, located on 4215 Duval St. and E. 43rd St., announced it would join the ranks of many other restaurants this year, closing its doors after 40 years with a final service this Saturday. After the onset of COVID-19, Mother's Cafe was forced to continue operations on just takeout orders and watch sales drop about 75%, according to Austin 360. It isn't all bad news—Mother's Cafe plans to sell some of its more popular items, like the cashew-tamari salad dressing, in stores. The restaurant's owners said they have not yet ruled out the possibility of moving locations or even selling the restaurant.
Valhalla Esports Lounge
Valhalla Esports Lounge, located on 710 B W 6th St., announced Aug. 8 it wasn't sure it could make it through COVID-19. The Austin Business Journal reported Oct. 16 that the bar would file Chapter 11 bankruptcy in hopes of being able to restructure its business model and hopefully reopen. The bar, which opened just over a year ago, started a WeFunder campaign to raise money to survive the pandemic but did not meet its goal and returned the money it had raised.
While Wheatsville Co-op, located on 3101 Guadalupe St. and 4001 S. Lamar Blvd., doesn't have plans to shut down anytime soon, the grocery store mentioned in a letter for help that since COVID-19 started, sales had dropped about 15% despite many larger grocery stores seeing a surge in profit. Among others, Wheatsville cited one-stop shop grocery stores being popular during this time; people avoiding city centers—where both of its locations are; and UT's low in-person rate as reasons why the business is struggling.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."