Austin has a velvety, itty-bitty, intimate new comedy club coming to town.
Founded by comedians Raza Jafri and Andre Ricks, The East Austin Comedy Club will open inside multi-purpose art house Tiger Den, 1303 E. 4th St., with a grand opening weekend July 21-23. The club will be open on weekends going forward.
Jafri told Austonia he had already been doing stand-up for five years before he moved to Austin from Chicago in January 2021. He has been working to produce shows for Congress club Speakeasy since.
Though he never planned to move to Austin, clubs in all the major comedy cities had closed down due to the pandemic. Jafri said he felt it was his “only available option,” but has found his place in Austin’s comedy scene.
“Since I've been here, there's this feeling in the air that something special is happening in the stand-up comedy world,” Jafri said. “Austin's comedy scene, although it's not nearly as big as New York or L.A., (it) definitely has a lot of high-quality people up top and a lot of independent shows that allow people to be able to level up quickly.”
With a foot in the door in Austin’s flourishing comedy world—brought in part by Joe Rogan’s push for comedians to migrate here—Jafri told Austonia he and Ricks have been anxiously waiting to open their own establishment.
The club will showcase local, national and international talent in one-off shows and a residency program, which Jafri said has already been selected and will be ready to announce soon. Jafri said he hopes the club will help elevate local performers with paid spots, meaningful stage time and new connections.
“That kind of entrepreneurial attitude is quite prevalent in the Austin community right now with stand-up,” Jafri said. “Everyone's producing shows and it's because such a mix of people have come from all over. Austin's making a name for itself on the national scale when it comes to stand up.”
With only 40 available tickets per show, the venue is dark, mysterious and intimate with its eclectic courtyard and lounge furniture. Each ticket costs $20 for a two-hour show, comes with access to the open wine bar and is BYOB.
Jafri said he hopes holding the club at a historic venue will evoke a sense of “Old East Austin,” though he wasn’t here to see it.
“All these people who wanted to do stand up and had no outlet to do it in their hometowns migrated out here, so many of them have stayed and it's continued to grow," Jafri said. “If you're in the stand-up world, you can feel that there's a buzz happening here. East Austin Comedy Club is creating another kind of unique venue where performers can tighten their routine and have an intimate space just for stand-up.”
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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.