With Texas' mask mandate ending and Gov. Greg Abbott giving businesses the go-ahead to open at full capacity on Wednesday, some bars couldn't be happier about their newfound freedom to open like its 2019.
Bars, like many other businesses, took a huge hit as they were forced to close and then only opened as restaurants a few months ago. While many are opting for safety despite the lifting of the mask mandate, those that have been skirting pandemic rules since the beginning of the pandemic are proud to say they are opening in pre-covid style.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse, 701 W. 6th St., did not answer several calls from Austonia, but took to Facebook and Instagram to celebrate that "Texas is open" after Abbott announced that bars no longer had to follow restrictions.
Back in June, the bar was one of a few that had its alcohol permit suspended by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for violating social distancing rules.
Similarly, UnBARlievable on West 6th Street, the self-proclaimed "greatest drinkery on Earth," had its permit suspended at the same time as Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse but is taking a unique route in regards to the new order.
Brandon Cash, owner of UnBARlievable, The Rooftop on 6th, The Aquarium on 6th and The Goodnight posted to his personal Instagram story that UnBARlievable would be "masks off" and "100% open" come March 10.
Cash has been making a splash in the Austin bar scene for a while, not just for his disdain for COVID-19 safety precautions but he has also been called out multiple times for racism and sexism over the years.Anti-Brandon Cash blog, shutdownbrandoncash.com, said he posted on Facebook after Unbarlievable had its alcohol license suspended earlier this year. Cash has repeatedly refused to apologize for the comments he has made on social media.
UnBARlievable did not answer multiple attempts to call the establishment during business hours.
Elgin bar Liberty Tree Tavern, 117 N. Main Street, also celebrated the news on Facebook, saying it was "bout damn time" that the state opened up. The bar garnered national attention back in May 2020 for not allowing masks to be worn inside the establishment.
The bar encouraged patrons not to come to the bar if they were concerned for their safety.
According to a poll done by KXAN, a fifth of Austinites said they will stop wearing masks altogether tomorrow, whereas a poll done by Eater Austin showed that 38% of Austinites said they would only dine at restaurants and bars that don't require masks.
While a huge majority of Austin bars are planning to keep safety precautions, some are taking a middle ground. Open-air music venue Cedar Street Courtyard, located at 208 W. 4th St., told Austonia they will still encourage wearing masks and social distancing but they will not require it. Additionally, they will allow people to roam the venue and hit the dance floor.
Of the 22 bars that answered calls from Austonia, 21 confirmed they would continue to enforce restrictions as normal. View some of them here.
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.