A North Austin nightclub's grand reopening went off without a hitch Friday. Videos shared by the club showed dozens of patrons dancing in tight packs into the wee hours of the night, with hardly a mask to be seen.
This is despite a countywide ban on bars and nightclubs, and at least seven complaints that were filed against the venue for allegedly violating pandemic orders since the opening.
El Nocturno's opening Friday was preceded by two visits from Austin code inspectors, who found nothing wrong, KVUE reported. However, those inspectors may have missed the crowds because they arrived around 7 p.m., two hours before the club's advertised opening at 9 p.m.
A statement from the city shared with the news station said its COVID compliance teams must witness violations first-hand, and do not consider video footage as evidence.
Videos uploaded by the club, now deleted, show what would be clear violations. The videos are available on KVUE.
One reason code inspectors arrived so early may have to do with the department's hours, which end at 8 p.m.
A city spokesperson told Austonia the code department is not the only department to respond to COVID compliance calls. Other departments, such as the Austin Police Department and Fire Department, operate after 8 p.m.
The bigger mystery, perhaps, is not how El Nocturno escaped enforcement but why it was able to open in the first place.
A countywide ban on bars and nightclubs is keeping these establishments closed, though some have gotten special permission to operate as restaurants by offering minimal food services. A top city health official recently called the exception a "loophole."
But El Nocturno doesn't have that—or any permit whatsoever from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The agency confirmed that the nightclub's permit for selling alcohol expired in February.
The club is not advertised as BYOB, and Facebook posts on its page boast a $2 drink special.
Late Sunday night, the club posted a status on its Facebook in Spanish that masks are required to enter.
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Nicklaus Pereksta says he loves photographing enthusiastic people, and it’s why his latest gig offering pictures to people out on Lady Bird Lake’s hike and bike trail is going smoothly. He sets up his gear on the Pfluger pedestrian bridge and puts out a sign: Photos, $10.
“Overwhelmingly, this has been a really positive experience,” Pereksta said. “I get excited when I wake up in the morning and I can't wait to go to work.”
Bikers and joggers are excited about it too. On the pedestrian bridge leading to downtown Thursday morning, a man on an e-bike rode up and posed, wanting more photos.
“I posted the last pictures on Instagram and people loved it. They asked, ‘where is this guy?’” the biker told Pereksta. Bashfully, Pereksta, who also photographs landscapes and at weddings and other events, said he was happy to hear that.
Pereksta started these photos about a month ago, after the strenuous runs required in his valet job started causing pain in his legs. And though he has a passion for photography, he wasn’t so sure when he started working independently if it would work out.
He felt uncertain about the demand for it and was also worried about having lots of expensive equipment out in the open.
“Then like the first day was nothing but high praise and people are like, this is so awesome. This is great. I've never seen anything like this before. I was like, Wow, this was really good, like positive turnout. So I got encouraged.”
Now, he wants to expand and is thinking of contacting the Mueller Farmers Market about how to become a vendor. Still, he'll carry a connection to photographing on the bridge since the word bridge is related to his last name.
“It's a name my great, great, great grandfather came up with when he was marrying somebody. It's actually quite a romantic name. It means a joining of two bridges," Pereksta said. "So, I thought it was ironic that I'm set up on a bridge. I'm kind of representing my last name right now.”
Austonia talked to Pereksta about life in Austin, where he’s lived for eight years after living in Boston doing band photography.
What was your first experience with Austin?
I came here to visit some friends and they took me to Barbarella. So we went to Barbarella and I was like, ‘wow, this place is great.’ And then the restaurants and the food and going to Barton Springs. I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ Because there's nothing like that in Boston. If you want to go to a natural spring, you got to go to New Hampshire. There's no pools in the city at all. So there's lots of swimming out here.
What do you like best about Austin?
You go to any little quiet bar and there's a band playing that should be like onstage for a sold out show. Yeah, they're playing to 10 people, right? Like, one of the best bands ever and they're playing for 10 people, right? And just little magic moments like that are pretty fun. You just run into little random weird things.
What do you think makes Austin different from other places?
There’s no fall.
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