Claiming the interest of the mental health of the Austin community, local art, dance and yoga hall, Indra's Awarehouse said it is operating business the old-fashioned way: masks optional.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Indra's Awarehouse stated that it was open, hosting gatherings of various sizes and that "masks are encouraged and optional" and "social distancing is encouraged for those desiring a greater degree of safety."
For safety, Indra's Awarehouse said it would check temperatures at the door for special events or larger gatherings.
A city of Austin spokesperson said the city has received two complaints about Indra's Awarehouse: one on May 28, where police found no violation, and one on Dec. 13, which ended up being called off.
Angel Robinson, who made the initial post on Indra's Awarehouse's Facebook page, said she doesn't believe Indra's Awarehouse is violating any laws. She said she doesn't view Indra's Awarehouse as a business but instead as owner Randi Southard's home, in which Southard may have several people inside at a time. Robinson said groups usually range around 20 people.
"My understanding is that Indra's house is not subject to any sort of mask mandates," Robinson said. "I have spoken to the city about the laws. With respect, there are recommendations and then there are laws. And I spoke to the city with respect to recommendations and laws. We are following exactly the same laws and guidelines as other yoga studios in the area."
According to Austin Public Health, masks are mandated for everyone in public through the end of 2020, with the exception of sitting at a table while eating and drinking.
"The likelihood is that it's probably not following (health guidelines) but we can't for certain make that determination without actually observing the violation," the city spokesperson said. "Every business, every individual is entitled to due process so we don't want to make an assumption based on social media posts or video or anything like that, even if it is from the business itself."
Indra's Awarehouse stated in its Facebook post that it hoped to operate a space where everyone was welcome, but added that the community it provides "isn't for everyone" and encouraged those who are at higher risk of COVID-19 or experiencing a "high amount of fear in relation to connecting with other humans" to stay home.
The Facebook post erupted with almost 800 comments, ranging from praising Southard for supporting the community during a hard time to condemning the business for downplaying the pandemic.
"I believe you are genuinely caring about people's well-being while recognizing their autonomy and capacity for personal responsibility at the same time," Daniel Treiman responded.
Many people, however, felt the post was irresponsible.
"Masks and social distancing being optional hurts," Liz Green commented. "Almost all of us know several people that have gotten sick, and many of us have actually lost people from the virus. It seems like Indra's people value their own emotional and spiritual health more than the safety of everyone."
The business closed the post by saying it respects "your right to make health decisions for yourself."
"I spend my time with people who are in awareness of what is happening, who are taking ownership of the level of risk that they want to take on to themselves, and who are consenting adults about that level of risk," Robinson said. "This is a paradigm-shifting world where we're now having that at the fore of our conscious."
With cases on the rise in Austin, the city is under Stage 4 guidance. Many health professionals, including Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, have said that, during this time, people shouldn't take their masks off when around people outside of their own household.
"The risk is when we take our masks off in front of other people," Escott said. "It is safe for individuals to go to a restaurant and have a meal with their family members and take their masks off while they're eating. The risk is when people are outside of their household and that mask comes off."
After two years of no in-person events, Austin festival South by Southwest has agreed to give 50% of ownership to P-MRC, a Los Angeles company that controls publishing operations for Rolling Stone and Billboard.
The media venture was founded in 2020 and is part-owned by Jay Penske, racer Roger Penske's son and head of Penske Racing and Penske Media.
The move comes after the COVID-19 pandemic left the festival with two years worth of hemorrhaging funds. SXSW organizers were left scrambling for solutions in March 2020 when the city of Austin canceled the festival at the onset of the pandemic. One-third of the festival's 175 year-round employees were laid off, and the festival ran a shortened virtual event in 2021.
SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson said in a statement that the company is grateful to get aid when they need it most and that they are now looking to the future.
"It has been an incredibly tough period for small businesses, SXSW included," Swenson said. "When Jay Penske approached us with an interest in becoming a partner, it was a true lifeline for us. Both of our companies share a passion for producing high-quality content that helps shape modern culture, so this feels like a natural alliance."
Both of Austin's big-name festivals are now in the hands of out-of-town buyers. In 2014, homegrown festival Austin City Limits was bought in part by LiveNation, who took 51% ownership in Austin live promoter C3 Presents.
The fest has captured the essence of Austin arts and culture for 34 years, and it doesn't plan on stopping now. With P-MRC by its side, SXSW said it plans on keeping its unique identity but expanding operations as it prepares for an in-person celebration next spring.
"Since 1987, SXSW has been the world's premier festival centered at the convergence of tech, media, film, and music," Penske said. "Today SXSW continues to be one of the most recognized brands for empowering creative talent and bringing together the brightest creators of our time. As part of this significant investment, we plan to build upon SXSW's incredible foundation while extending the platform further digitally and assisting Roland and his incredible team to bring their vision to even greater heights."
With their future restored, SXSW's newest slogan rings truer than ever: "See you next year at SXSW!"
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Update: Former Travis County deputy suspected of killing 3 in northwest Austin now in police custody
Stephen Broderick is now in police custody for a suspected domestic violence incident that killed three in northwest Austin on Sunday.
After initially being called an active shooting incident, joint local law enforcement and more than 75 FBI agents proceeded with an almost day-long manhunt with three helicopters and on-ground teams for former Travis County deputy Broderick. Police captured him after a 911 caller reported a suspicious man walking along U.S. 290, where he was taken into custody.
Police believe the victims, who have been identified as two Hispanic women and one Black man, knew their assailant. A child was involved but is now safely in police custody. Two of the victims have been identified as former and current Elgin ISD students: Alyssa Broderick and Willie Simmons III.
The school district released a statement offering its condolences to the families. Alyssa was enrolled until October 2020 and played on the basketball team. Simmons was a senior at Elgin High School where he was captain of the football team and had been recruited to play football at the University of North Texas.
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez released the following statement on the incident: "I'm truly heartbroken that a former Travis County Sheriff's Office Deputy is the suspect in such a horrific incident. TCSO is standing by to provide any, and all assistance we can to the families of the victims in their time of need. I'm proud of the integrity and professionalism shown by the men and women of TCSO, APD and other law enforcement agencies, who worked tirelessly throughout the night to locate Stephen Broderick. I'm especially grateful to the vigilant citizen who called 911 after seeing Broderick, and to the Manor PD officers and TCSO deputies who took him into custody this morning."
APD @Chief_Chacon provides updated media briefing in relation to Great Hills Trail incident. - PIO8 https://t.co/47siNWhARI
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) April 18, 2021
During a press briefing at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, Interim Police Chief Joe Chacon said law enforcement was on the scene for several hours investigating the incident with 41-year-old Broderick.
"We're very sorry that obviously this has happened and we continue to try and locate this individual, we are transitioning from a search in this area to a fugitive search and those efforts will continue until this person is located," Chacon said. "I don't want anyone to think that we're packing up and going home. We're going to continue to look for this individual because he continues to pose a threat to this community."
#texasshooting #masshooting Arboretum shooting Austin. pic.twitter.com/SkIsgDoYHt
— Jamie Hammonds (@jamie_hammonds5) April 18, 2021
This story has been updated at 8 a.m. Monday to include the latest information.
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Formula 1 is returning to Florida for the first time since 1959, announcing that the brand-new Miami Grand Prix will join the calendar in 2022 and Austin will no longer be the only F1 race in the U.S.
Held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in Miami Gardens, this will be the first race in the Sunshine State in 62 years. With a new track setup, F1 will loop the stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Excited for @F1 @f1miami @HardRockStadium - a Global Entertainment Destination. This event will bring opportunities for so many and will be world-class. Thank you to @gregmaffei #chasecarey #stefanodomenicali @MayorRHarris @Ogilbert @CommishDiaz @MayorDaniella pic.twitter.com/n6dDDD1cPX
— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) April 18, 2021
The new 3.36 mile circuit has 19 corners, three straights and potential for three DRS zones, with expected top speeds of 198 mph.
Now with two races in the U.S., F1 President Stefano Domenicali said they will avoid having back-to-back events by keeping the Miami Grand Prix separate from the U.S. Grand Prix, which is held at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
The date of the race has yet to be confirmed, though Domenicali said he expects the first race in a 10-year deal to take place in the second quarter of 2022. Austin's race will take place on Oct. 24 this year.
"The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the U.S. which will be further supported by this exciting second race," Domenicali said.
Miami will mark the 11th race location in the U.S. since the Championship began in 1950: Circuit of The Americas in Austin; Dallas, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Sebring, Florida; Riverside, California; Watkins Glen, New York; Long Beach, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Detroit, Michigan and Phoenix, Arizona. COTA was first opened in 2012.
Domenicali said F1 will be working with the FIA and the Hard Rock Stadium to leave a lasting impact on the community: discounted tickets for residents, a program to support local businesses and a STEM education program through F1 in schools.
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