In 1987, North and South Austinites put their differences to the test as they met on opposite banks of what was then called Town Lake for an epic tug-of-war competition, where more than a hundred "Bubbas" of South Austin, the so-called "auto parts capital of the world," met with the "Yuppies," who were known by the South as "wine-sipping, quiche-eater pantywaists."
More than 30 years later after the ripped T-shirt Bubbas dragged their suit and tie Northern foes into the water, Lady Bird Lake separates two very different cultures within the capital.
While South Austin is known for its "weird" Austin atmosphere and ties to the music and food culture, North Austin is often viewed as Austin's center for big tech, bigger corporations and swaths of young professionals.
With iconic South Congress and Zilker Park on their side, South Austinites claim to reside in the cultural hotbed of the city, where Austin's reputation as the "Live Music Capital of the World" earns its merit.
Cody O'Dell, a real estate agent and comedian who grew up in Austin, said that his current South Central neighborhood is a lingering remnant of a former Austin.
"I feel like South Central's where you really see the DNA of the city of Austin," O'Dell said. "It embodies that kind of 'Keep Austin Weird' vibe."
Cody O'Dell says South Austin, where he lives, still has a sense of old Austin.
Meanwhile, 24-year-old Matt DeMario, who grew up in Round Rock but has had his taste of many different Austins, is a North Austinite through and through.
DeMario boils the division down to two words: hippie vs. tech. He also said development hasn't transformed South Austin in the same way it has up North.
"One of the interesting distinctions is South Austin hasn't been gentrified, but the North has," DeMario said. "It's the old Austin hippie vibe versus new Austin tech."
Matt Myers is president of the North Austin Civic Association. He has seen his neck of the woods transform around him.
Myers set his roots in Austin more than 30 years ago and bought a North Austin home for $88,000 in 1992. Since then, he's seen large-scale developments including the Mueller planned development and The Domain, a commercial, retail and residential development, bring big business in. He's been around as the North Austin Tech District attracted Samsung, Apple and other corporations. Now, Myer's home is even within walking distance of Austin FC's new Q2 Stadium.
Myers planned to leave North Austin when his youngest daughter graduated from high school, but he stuck around because of good neighbors, lighter traffic and great entertainment.
"It's just a very attractive part of town to work in, to live in, to be entertained in," Myers said. "I've really earned a respect for the people who live here that are passionate about our neighborhoods and want to see them improve."
The Domain combines living, working and playing in a sprawling, high-end North Austin city center. (Shutterstock)
River ParkThe controversial River Park development is due to open in phases over the next two decades. (Sasaki)
New developments are crowding South Austin, however, and Myers thinks the South could eventually mirror the North. A Domain-style development, River Park, is in the works on East Riverside as Tesla and Oracle move nearby, and South Congress's new Music Lane is drawing even more interest to the cultural hub. Still, DeMario thinks that development will be skewed North "for the foreseeable future."
O'Dell, who believes The Domain is the "antithesis of what Austin is supposed to be about," doesn't welcome the change.
"I feel like the South is fighting that existential battle with the North over the corporate behemoths' influence of big tech and all the shifts that come with that," O'Dell said. "It's the struggle of Austin to keep its cultural identity."
Both are united on one front, however. Skyrocketing housing prices on both sides of the river are driving people out, and eventually, the North/South division could be between Round Rock and Buda as newcomers leave Austin for less expensive housing.
"Those city vibes... (some people) aren't really interested or care about that," O'Dell said. "They're just looking for affordable living."
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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