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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