Just a few weeks ago, Capital Metro and supporters of its $9.8 billion light rail-plus plan had the wind at their backs.
A proposed November rail referendum sure to be teeming with transit-friendly Democrats eager to show up and have their say in the presidential election. A Central Texas road system snarled through most of the daylight hours, even on Saturdays. A robust local economy, with everyone working and likely in a generous mood toward a huge government public works proposal.
Even Capital Metro itself—for most of 35-year history something of a civic punching bag with unimpressive ridership on its buses and trains—had been on a 17-month streak of increasing boardings on its system. And Capital Metro, with agency CEO Randy Clarke finishing his second year on the job, finally had the sort of charismatic and politically savvy leader it had long lacked.
Victory in November—a public OK for hiking Austin property taxes to pay for much of the "Project Connect" 20-year installation/expansion of five rail lines and additional "rapid bus" routes—seemed, if not locked down, at least more likely than not.
Then came COVID-19 and the Great Mitigation.
Those once-frustrating highways are, for now, open roads. With so many downtown workers toiling away in their dens, Capital Metro has seen its ridership fall by two-thirds. The Austin area, with the economy shutdown worldwide to tame the deadly contagion, will likely see 25 percent unemployment this year. Both the city and Capital Metro budgets will lose tens of millions of dollars in 2020, primarily from less-than-projected sales taxes.
Even the core model of public transit has taken a public relations hit. The insularity of traveling in your own car suddenly seems so much safer than sharing a closed space on a bus or train with strangers
Project Connect, thanks to COVID-19, now faces a tougher, murkier political journey through the next several months.
Is it possible that the tax referendum on the plan might even be put off to another, less dicey year?
"That's a conversation we need to be having as we move into the summer," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who is foursquare behind the plan to build at least 35 miles of light rail lines from North Austin to South Austin, and to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. "In so many ways, the world seems to be changing every two days now. We don't know what the economic situation will be a few months from now. Or how long the process will be to adapt to the situation. We don't know whether Congress is going to step forward with an infrastructure bill in May.
"Everyone is wanting to have more information."
Clarke, while acknowledging the uncertainty of the moment, said the policy bedrock beneath the rippling topsoil remains unchanged. Austin's bustle and growth will return, he said.
"We might have roads with no cars on them today," Clarke said. "But the traffic will be back. Instead of building 26 more towers downtown, we might build 20. Instead of 130 people a day moving here, maybe we could have 100."
That younger than ever, overwhelmingly Democratic electorate will still show up at the polls this fall. And Capital Metro, he said, still has a good story to tell voters.
"We were up (on ridership) 17 months straight," he said. "And if the only thing that stops us is a global pandemic, I feel pretty good about that."
CapMetro ridership going into the pandemic. (Source: Capital Metro)Source: Capital Metro
Also unchanged, however, is resistance from a small group of motivated and monied conservatives who have bedeviled Capital Metro since the 1990s and helped defeat two previous light rail plans.
"People want to get where they want to go, curb to curb," said Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, a Republican who first came to public notice opposing a Capital Metro sales tax increase in 1995. "And not be enclosed in a capsule with a bunch of coughing people."
Daugherty said his group will go public shortly with a political action committee, a website and talking points against the Project Connect referendum.
This latest march toward a rail election—city voters soundly rejected a flawed $1.4 billion plan in 2014 that even some of the noisier rail advocates in town opposed—began about two years ago when Capital Metro and city leaders revivified the Project Connect brand used for that earlier plan. Consultants went to work again designing routes, making cost and ridership estimates, and holding public meetings. Officials say that more than 40,000 people have participated either in person or online.
For much of 2018 and 2019, Clarke and the agency kept the public in suspense about whether rail might be left out of the final recommendation. Perhaps the "high-capacity" transit lines would use only electric, rubber-tired buses running on dedicated routes carved out of existing streets, in many cases. That bus-only plan would have cost about a third as much, or less than $3 billion, though with a much lower ridership ceiling years in the future.
But the final plan that emerged late last year included a 20-mile Orange rail line running from North Lamar Boulevard near U.S. 183, through downtown, and then south on South Congress Avenue. The proposed 15-mile Blue rail line would run from the airport along East Riverside Drive, cross under the river just west of I-35, and then run west to meet the Blue line at Lavaca and West Fourth streets.
Yes, under the river. The headline feature of this new plan (various other rail plans dating back to the 1980s have included versions of the Blue and Orange lines) is a $2 billion tunnel section beneath downtown, including what officials have dubbed the Austin Underground transit mall. The tunnels reportedly were key to getting business community support because it would spare downtown streets the loss of lanes through dozens of blocks.
The plan also includes another Gold light rail line, a commuter rail line to Manor and improvements to the existing MetroRail Red line.
The Capital Metro board in early June is likely to vote to approve the plan as the "locally preferred alternative," a necessary step to initiate a several-year process of trying to land federal grants for the project. The Federal Transit Administration, if Austin prevails in a very tough competition against other cities, could provide 40% or more of the capital cost.
But that still leaves at least $5 billion to come from local taxpayers, along with annual operating costs estimated to start at about $50 million in 2023 and rise to $180 million by 2040 when the system would be more or less built out.
And that's where November comes in.
Capital Metro, even before the virus hit, was not in a position to contribute much to the plan's huge capital cost. The agency already spends on operations virtually all of the money it takes in each year from its maxed-out 1% sales tax, fares and federal grants. But the city, with the authority to raise its property tax rate, has more flexibility.
The emerging financial plan before the virus and the shutdown was to ask voters for a specific property tax increase—probably in the vicinity of 10 cents per $100 in assessed property value—and dedicate all of that money in perpetuity to a newly created animal called a "local government corporation." That added tax would raise more than $150 million a year initially, an amount that would grow with property valuations through the years and could be used both to build the project and then to fund much of the future operating costs.
The new mini-government would have a board formed by the city and Capital Metro, perhaps a small staff and consultants, and would design and construct the rail system and added bus lines. Those projects, once completed, would be handed back to Capital Metro to operate.
The present tumult has forced a second look at that financing plan as well, Adler said.
"That certainly hasn't been decided," he said. "There are people arguing for a hybrid approach" that might involve a bond election for the initial investment and a separate ballot question on the added property tax for the long term.
John Langmore, a former Capital Metro board member, is chairman of Transit for Austin, a nonprofit formed last year to do early "education" efforts on the Project Connect plan. The nonprofit before long will give way to a new political action committee, which will be able legally to raise money and overtly stump for the ballot proposal.
"Everyone is anxious about whether the politics might have changed" because of COVID-19, Langmore said last week. "I'm sure they have changed, but we don't know how. But that hasn't prevented us from wanting to move forward.
"None of the problems that generated the need for Project Connect have permanently gone away. They will all resurrect when the economy comes back."
Correction: The original version of this story reversed the Orange and Blue lines.
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The upcoming Nov. 3 election is set to be a historic one—in Austin and around the country.
The Travis County Clerk's office expects as many as 100,000 voters will apply for a mail-in ballot by the Oct. 23 deadline, and it has already received nearly double the number of applications it did for the 2016 general election.
"It is most definitely COVID," County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told Austonia earlier this month. "People are afraid to come inside."
Ahead of Election Day, we've rounded up key dates to remember, a guide to voting by mail and some background on the major races at the local, state and federal levels.
Mark your calendars<ul><li>Last day to register to vote: Monday, Oct. 5<ul><li>Travis County residents can fill out a voter registration application <u><a href="https://travis.go2gov.net/voterreg/vexpress/registration.do" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a></u> or find out if they are registered <a href="https://www.votetravis.com/vexpress/display.do" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>here</u></a>.</li></ul></li><li>Early voting: Tuesday, Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 30<ul><li>Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. You can find a list of Travis County early voting locations below: </li></ul></li></ul><iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=17x85RnH1fkaaaH7GW091vVUYKsYOwKsq" width="640" height="480"></iframe>
How to apply for a mail-in ballot<p>In Texas, only certain voters are eligible to vote by mail. They include: people who are 65 years or older; out of the country during the entire election period; sick or disabled; in jail.</p><p>Eligible voters must apply for a mail-in ballot by Friday, Oct. 23. The application form, which can be found <a href="https://countyclerk.traviscountytx.gov/images/pre/pdf_tc_elections_ABBM_2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>here</u></a>, must be mailed to the following address and received by that date.</p><p>Dana DeBeauvoir<br>Travis County Clerk - Elections Division<br>P.O. Box 149325<br>Austin, TX 78714</p><p>Given the <a href="https://austonia.com/vote-by-mail-challenges" target="_self"><u>turmoil at the U.S. Postal Service</u></a>, DeBeauvoir recommends eligible voters who wish to vote by mail submit their applications as soon as they can.</p><p>Once you receive your mail-in ballot, fill it out per the instructions and return it. It must be postmarked by or on Election Day and received the following business day. </p><p>Voters who wish to hand-deliver their mail-in ballot can do so at four drive-thru locations starting Thursday, Oct. 1. Voters can only hand-deliver their own ballot and must present an acceptable form of ID.</p><ul><li>5501 Airport Blvd. (use the tax office's drive-thru payment lanes)</li><li>700 Lavaca St. (at either the Lavaca or Guadalupe entrance to the parking garage)</li><li>1010 Lavaca St. (enter the parking lot from W. 11th St. between Guadalupe and Lavaca streets)</li></ul><div>The hours for these locations are as follows:</div><ul><li>Thursday, Oct. 1 to Monday, Oct. 12: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.</li><li>Tuesday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 1: Monday-Saturday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday noon-6 p.m.</li><li>Monday, Nov. 2: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.</li><li>Tuesday, Nov. 3: 7 a.m.-7 p.m.</li></ul><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NjY1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzg2MzI0Nn0.8t3qtL-7eVF-q58CjbHbHpB2VzDjmgfbnyWVmM9aPqU/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C1442%2C0%2C1057&height=800" id="cf79a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3fa3b83962ea2d96f827907f03e8180" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot in Texas is Fri., Oct. 23. Unlike most states, Texas only allows voters who meet certain eligibility requirements to vote by mail.
Races to watch<p><em>President </em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">President Donald Trump faces off against Democratic candidate Joe Biden. The last time a Democratic candidate won in Texas was <a href="https://apps.texastribune.org/features/2020/texas-general-election-ballot/?_ga=2.65352878.1438238273.1601300916-1550764229.1583782951" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>in 1976</u></a>, when Jimmy Carter was on the ballot. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">According to <a href="https://texaspolitics.utexas.edu/blog/texas-2020-presidential-poll-tracker" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>a poll tracker</u></a> compiled by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, Trump is favored to win Texas in three of four polls conducted this month. The fourth poll predicts a tie. </p> <p><em>U.S. Senate</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Three-term incumbent Sen. John Cornyn is seeking his fourth term against combat veteran and self-described "badass" MJ Hegar. Cornyn has vastly outraised Hegar, but Democrats are hopeful that <a href="https://austonia.com/john-cornyn-mj-hegar-texas-senate-race" target="_self"><u>their candidate can win</u></a>.</p> <p><em>U.S. House</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Travis County is <a href="https://redistricting.capitol.texas.gov/docs/19R0036_116th_Congressional_Tabloid_2020_06_02.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>spliced into five congressional districts</u></a>, three of which the Texas Tribune has identified as <a href="https://apps.texastribune.org/features/2020/texas-general-election-ballot/?_ga=2.65352878.1438238273.1601300916-1550764229.1583782951" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>"races to watch"</u></a> this November. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">U.S. House District 10 incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, faces Democratic candidate Mike Siegel. U.S. House District 21 incumbent Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, faces Democrat, and former gubernatorial candidate, Wendy Davis. And U.S. House District 25 incumbent Rep. Roger WIlliams, R-Austin, faces Democratic candidate Julie Oliver. </p> <p><em>Texas Senate</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Travis County is represented by <a href="https://redistricting.capitol.texas.gov/docs/19R0036_86th_Senate_Tabloid_2020_07_31.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>four members of the state Senate</u></a>, two of whom are up for reelection this November. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">District 21 State Sen. Judith Zaffrini, D-Laredo, will face Republican candidate Frank Pomeroy, and District 24 State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, will face Democratic candidate Clayton Tucker. </p> <p><em>Texas House</em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Travis County is represented by <a href="https://redistricting.capitol.texas.gov/docs/19R0036_86th_House_Tabloid_2020_02_06.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>five members of the state House</u></a>. One of those members, District 47 incumbent Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, faces Republican challenger Justin Berry, in a race that the Tribune calls a "GOP target."</p> <p><em>Travis County Commissioners Court </em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Three of the five seats that make up the Travis County Commissioners Court are up this November.</p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Democrat Andy Brown and Republican Michael Lovins will compete for the position of county judge in a special election after Sarah Eckhardt resigned less than two years into her second term to run for state senator. Both candidates were selected by their respective political parties <a href="https://austonia.com/travis-county-judge-2020-election" target="_self"><u>rather than local voters</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">The county judge serves as chief executive of the county and oversees the Commissioners Court. The office functions similarly to that of a city's mayor. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion, a Democrat, will run against Republican candidate Solomon Arcoven. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, the sole Republican on the court, is not running for reelection. Democrat Ann Howard will face off against Republican Becky Bray for his seat. </p> <p><em>Austin City Council </em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Half of City Council's 10 seats are up for election this November. Twenty candidates have thrown their hats in the ring. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Council seats are nonpartisan, although all current members are affiliated with the Democratic party. You can find out which district you live in <a href="https://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/CouncilDistrictMap/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">District 2 Council Member Delia Garza will vacate her seat to serve as Travis County attorney. Four candidates—David Chincanchan, Vanessa Fuentes, Casey Ramos and Alex Strenger—are running to replace her. You can read more about them <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-city-council-seats-up-for-election/district-2" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">District 4 Council Member Greg Casar faces two competitors, Louis C. Herrin III and Ramesses II Setepenre. You can read more about the candidates <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-city-council-seats-up-for-election/district-4" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan is running for reelection against Deedra Harrison, Mackenzie Kelly and Dr. Jennifer Musthaler. You can read more about them <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-city-council-seats-up-for-election/district-6" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool faces one opponent, Morgan Witt. You can read more about the race <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-city-council-seats-up-for-election/district-7" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">The most crowded race is in District 10, where incumbent Alison Alter faces six other candidates: Ben Easton, Belinda Greene, Pooja Sethi, Robert Thomas, Noel Tristan and Jennifer Virden. You can read more about the field <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-city-council-seats-up-for-election/district-10" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Elected members will be tasked with rewriting the city's <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-land-use-code-rewrite" target="_self"><u>land use code</u></a>, considering <a href="https://austonia.com/austin-unanimously-passes-4-1b-budget-that-includes-5-percent-cut-to-police-budget-with-promises-for-more-reports" target="_self"><u>further cuts to the Austin Police Department's budge</u></a>t and, if voters approve Proposition A, implementing <a href="https://austonia.com/project-connect-austin" target="_self"><u>the $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan</u></a>. </p> <p><em>Propositions </em></p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">There are two local mobility propositions on the November ballot. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Proposition A gives voters the chance to approve a permanent 8.75-cent increase to the city's property tax rate to pay for and maintain Project Connect, a proposed $7.1 billion, 15-year overhaul of Austin's transit system. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">Proposition B allows voters to opt into a $460 million active mobility bond, with funding going toward sidewalks, urban trails, bikeways and Vision Zero, a campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.</p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">You can read more about these propositions—including their ballot language, who supports and opposes the measures and the tax impact—<a href="https://austonia.com/austin-propositions" target="_self"><u>here</u></a>.</p>
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, many esteemed local businesses have been forced to shut their doors permanently. Austin is no exception, and over the last six months, some of the city's most beloved local establishments have had to say goodbye. This non-comprehensive list includes some of Austin's most iconic businesses that have closed for good due to COVID-19. May they live in the hearts and minds of Austinites forever.
Iconic Austin businesses that have closed due to COVID-19:
Austin Java (three out of four locations)<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ0MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjA4ODg0M30.ODINaGiHnfT_NH5FeQg_1gC9aPyk6R2VzsNtygZ1qkk/img.png?width=980" id="715fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="26efbbc274d52d5fe0f057c02f259d18" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Popular local coffee chain Austin Java announced in August that it was permanently closing three of its flour locations: in Austin City Hall, Dripping Springs and the Met Center. The cafe opened its inaugural location in 1995 on Parkway Street off North Lamar, which closed in 2017 to make way for the four new spots. Austin Java devotees can still get their caffeine fix at the chain's last remaining location on Menchaca Road in the Westgate neighborhood.<br></p>
Buffalo Billiards<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mjc1MzI1MX0.uTdNTAratMKRmWbpaq-DYy38CJPx9KyZVtMd6ehdbJk/img.jpg?width=980" id="421b3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab19939bb57990f5a5049884f4a1fda0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>The Wild West-themed watering hole and pool hall <a href="https://www.facebook.com/buffalobilliardsaustin/posts/4568248103215552" target="_blank">announced</a> <a href="https://austonia.com/buffalo-billiards-closes?share_id=5804221" target="_blank">last week</a> that it was permanently closing its doors after 21 years on 6th Street. Long before it became Buffalo Billiards, the historic space was known as the Missouri House, built by the Ziller Family in 1861 and reputed to be Austin's first boarding house (and rumored brothel). Home to many a drunken cowboy brawl in its past life, Buffalo Billiards served as the perfect destination for a revelrous night on the town.<br></p>
Capitol City Comedy Club<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzgzNjY2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzA0MzM4M30.OLvTSydqLncPOm2svJsft755prbXG05o4i0PYmTqBdU/img.png?width=980" id="a888a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="243c9fecf407df4c6d237c4f84828852" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Austin's Cap City Comedy closes its doors for good in the wake of the pandemic earlier this month.<p>The longstanding laugh factory situated on Research Boulevard took its final bow <a href="https://austonia.com/cap-city-comedy-closes" target="_blank">earlier this month</a> after nearly 35 years in business. Houstonians Howard and Sandy Marcus opened the venue, originally called the Laff Stop, in March of 1986; it was rebranded to Capitol City Comedy Club in 1996. "Laughing will always be the key to moving forward," co-owner Margie Coyle said in a <a href="https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/cap-city-comedy-club-shutting-down/#:~:text=AUSTIN%20(KXAN)%20%E2%80%94%20The%20COVID,month%20with%20plans%20to%20reopen." target="_blank">statement to KXAN</a>. "I love Cap City, but if you see the light, get off the stage!"<br></p>
Dart Bowl<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1ODUxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzUyNDgzNX0.TFT_Wa9goeNLZnLtx9wDnOLkjHwdOcmwgV3wzz93Bps/img.jpg?width=980" id="76486" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1ce4eaf0f07ea7305291f897dcc16f33" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Austin's iconic Dart Bowl to close Friday after COVID slowdown hurts business<p>In July, Dart Bowl co-owner John Donovan <a href="https://austonia.com/business/dart-bowl" target="_blank">announced</a> that the adored bowling alley was permanently closing after 62 years of family-friendly fun. Donovan's grandfather, Harry Peterson, and local businessman Justin Dart co-opened the original Burnet Road location—then outside city limits—in 1958 and operated there for nearly four decades before relocating to Brentwood in 1997. Peterson also partnered with Jerry and Betty Ray to open Highland Lanes and Westgate Lanes, which thankfully remain open.<br></p>
Easy Tiger<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTYwODk1MX0.ti6Ybb6b2uJhL6CvbgMDhzLBDUTU6Vn2bWYPXFnPN5k/img.jpg?width=980" id="5d2fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33b40031a6eb06966c6b582d6fd268e5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>If you haven't washed Easy Tiger's fresh-baked bread or pastries down with a cappuccino or craft beer, you haven't really lived. Unfortunately, Austinites can no longer indulge in that pleasure at the bakery's downtown location, which boasted a gorgeous beer garden overlooking Waller Creek and offered a reprieve from heavy 6th Street foot traffic. The flagship Easy Tiger announced its permanent closure last week, ending an eight-year run downtown. Thankfully, its North Austin location at the Linc is still open for drive-thru, delivery, curbside and patio dining, and its <a href="https://www.easytigerusa.com/pages/pop-up" target="_blank">pop-up truck</a> could be bringing delectable fresh bread to your neighborhood soon.<br></p>
Fricano's Deli<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTY4NjU1MX0.6FzmirUmaf4nBiM9U0r4HFjT9gex5tzXMI5AZTqgxNo/img.jpg?width=980" id="ae482" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7ae4898dbeca1e41b7067c60459b81ec" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>The beloved West Campus deli closed its doors for good in April after serving mile-high sandwiches to hungry college students for 14 years. Fricano's first opened in 2006 on East 31st Street, later expanding to Nueces Street in 2011 and closing its original location a year later. Perhaps no testament to Fricano's quality speaks louder than its famous Ainsworth, a constantly-changing variety sandwich that employees assembled from the best ingredients of the day. No matter what each day's Ainsworth yielded, you'd be hard-pressed to find an unhappy customer.<br><strong></strong></p>
I Luv Video<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTYzODYzMn0.zjfeJruG8T8FLQY5n-uU9tlhbx5cX2N6QpMDnkMuXcA/img.jpg?width=980" id="7387b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0a3e84eb7d3aec7472df26daa58c00e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>I Luv Video, located on Airport Boulevard, serviced film enthusiasts in Austin for 35 years before owner Conrad Bejarano announced that the self-proclaimed "oldest and largest video store in the world" was closing for good on Sept. 1. But rather than sell his inventory and cut his losses, Bejarano is looking for a potential new owner to faithfully steward his collection of roughly 120,000 films. "It would bring me the utmost joy to pass the torch to a group or individual that has the financial capacity to preserve our immense catalog of films," Bejarano <a href="https://iluvvideos.com/" target="_blank">wrote</a> in his closure announcement. "My only stipulation is that whomever does so gives the community access to our vast film library."<br></p>
Magnolia Cafe West (Lake Austin)<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzEzNTM5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjE3NDY3NX0.kjDOXfw0Yfm3vqlgrdpZPpOwvQuXvypJFOy3DbgKBhI/img.jpg?width=980" id="4fa96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0830bc5399b15974fee5a7e5d4068018" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Austonia)<p>For more than 40 years, Magnolia Cafe welcomed weary students and wired festival-goers, serving up dinner plate-sized pancakes and bottomless coffee 24 hours a day. The omelettry owner Kenny Carpenter originally opened the Lake Austin space in 1979 as an auxiliary location called Omelettry West; he later sold it to partner Kent Cole, who rechristened it to Magnolia Cafe in 1986. The restaurant announced in April that it was closing for good, but mourners can still get their fix at the South Congress location, which opened in 1988.<br><strong></strong></p>
Mugshots<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDIzMDM0NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjIxMTE2N30.IFcnMI6dRYF0K49fkxBfLSJro7Uk_iDMoqHPzy9gg3g/img.png?width=980" id="f986d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79aec2741acc688b9010d141ff8ba52d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Iconic MugShots Bar closes after 18 years
(Facebook)<p>Since 2002, 7th Street dive bar Mugshots offered a respite from the Dirty Sixth mayhem while still giving patrons plenty of opportunities for debauchery. True to its name, the downtown haunt plastered its walls with photos of customers that were taken in the property's photo booth. In a Sept. 13 <a href="https://www.facebook.com/111679072204301/photos/a.340023902703149/3427236430648532/?type=3&theater" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook post</a>, owners Marcos Canchola Brian Hyde announced that Mugshots permanently closed its doors on Aug. 31. The watering hole is survived by a handful of other Canchola-and Hyde-owned properties around Austin, including Barfly's, the Hideout Pub, Bender Bar & Grill, Violet Crown Social Club, the Pour House Pub, and Pourhouse Pints & Pies.</p>
Shady Grove<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NTk3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjU5Njg4NX0.YXxIAuUraCzt594BBSImzAHH7oTKC7asCO8RAYfSBeE/img.jpg?width=980" id="09659" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9fb3ba0a1b37623aa3af09ee10398c08" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>After fielding Zilker Park foot traffic for 28 years, Shady Grove slung its last green chili cheeseburger in May. Opened in 1992 by Chuy's co-owners Mike Young and John Zapp, the Barton Springs Road eatery became an Austin staple with its iconic lasso signage, Southwestern cuisine and live music Thursdays during the summer. The one-two punch of skyrocketing rent and COVID-19 closures likely forced Shady Grove to shutter, but patrons can still get their Tex-Mex fill at the walking-distance Barton Springs Chuy's.</p>
Threadgill's<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTg0ODc4MH0.bJmfhFf8XJsQUSVgx-13noyB9R0I4mD_O1v1a4Tw-5k/img.jpg?width=980" id="2b710" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9f2e605e8c7f46762c002fc9086da803" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>Threadgill's owner Eddie Wilson announced in April that he was selling the restaurant, beer joint and music venue, closing the curtain on one of Austin's most iconic businesses. Bootlegger and country music enthusiast Kenneth Threadgill secured the first beer license in Travis County and opened the converted Gulf filling station on North Lamar—then outside Austin city limits—in 1933, as soon as Prohibition was repealed. Wednesday night singing sessions attracted droves of hippies, beatniks and folkies in the '60s, including burgeoning blues-rock howler and University of Texas undergrad Janis Joplin. Wilson—who also co-founded the hallowed Armadillo World Headquarters music venue in 1973—bought and renovated the property in 1981. For nearly four more decades, it drew locals and tourists alike with its electrifying performers and mouth-watering chicken-fried steak. (A second location, Threadgill's World Headquarters, operated on Riverside from 1996 to 2018.)<br><strong></strong></p>
Vulcan Video<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzQ3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjYxMTY1MX0.3aC_cNahKEJXeMWMHk38jc6K6t1180tGCebJ3iUwjGM/img.jpg?width=980" id="92c41" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d6cd64cc10aba9dbde75bc3b1c98d423" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>After servicing movie buffs for 35 years, Vulcan Video announced in April that it was cutting to black and permanently shutting its doors on Russell Drive. The beloved independent movie shop opened in 1985 amid the VHS rental boom and weathered several seismic industry shifts over the decades, including the rise (and fall) of mega-chains like Blockbuster and the dominance of streaming services. Vulcan Video's inventory comprised renowned classics, underground gems and rare imports, weaving a rich tapestry of movie history and giving fellow cinephiles a place to hang out and talk shop.<br><strong></strong></p>
Iconic Austin businesses that are still open<p>Thankfully, some iconic Austin businesses have weathered the pandemic by experimenting with new business models, implementing new safety regulations or receiving much-needed relief funds. Here are a few of them:</p>
El Patio<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzUyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjU1Njc1OH0.5Bd6uhY0ZInTihHnkci0RX-QFH7cw2GtTXOOwUx8tlQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="477db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e4869b1530681c080529146e5ded6348" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>Tex-Mex trailblazer Paul Joseph began working at the Schoonerville restaurant in the early 1950s, and in 1954, he bought the building and transformed it into El Patio. The Guadalupe Street mainstay was one of the first Tex-Mex restaurants to grace Austin, and customers can still enjoy savory enchiladas, crispy tortilla chips and frosty margaritas there today. The dining room is currently open for business, and patrons must wear a mask upon entering and being seated.<br><strong></strong></p>
Fonda San Miguel<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzUyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDM5MjkwNH0.UjPQa00jlRd13W3RMp60m0Eho7NBsRet8eHr89OdQVs/img.jpg?width=980" id="3c19f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6677c474b6a78d22d5229dcd2b2f78c9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>Modeled after a colonial-era hacienda, Fonda San Miguel has remained one of Austin's most venerated and visibly striking Mexican restaurants since opening in 1975. Customers can marvel at the exotic plants and breathtaking artwork as they enjoy interior Mexican cuisine from Oaxaca, Puebla, Veracruz and Yucatan. Fonda San Miguel reopened in June, encouraging reservations and requiring customers and servers to wear masks.<br><strong></strong></p>
Sam's Bar-B-Que<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzUzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzAyNDMwN30.aexJZIwfbDR56cJDquwxX8OujXIwU7NcETVYx_0khx0/img.jpg?width=980" id="b218d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8c51812084bc4a81d7f4751c6bd6d093" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Top Notch Hamburgers<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzUzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjExNDc4MH0._r4mIH4A8P0T2sZrutGceC0G2PyHib3LlrKpEqomcUk/img.jpg?width=980" id="4e001" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d382eaa6ff7f6562081cc299422861c0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>This Burnet Road institution has been serving charcoal-grilled burgers and fried chicken via carhop since 1971, and it was immortalized in Richard Linklater's 1993 coming-of-age stoner comedy <em>Dazed and Confused. </em>Top Notch and Galaxy Cafe co-owner Kelly Chappell received a PPP loan in April, and Top Notch is currently open for pickup orders placed in-person, over the phone or online.<br></p>
Quality Seafood Market<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0MzUzNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzY3NzM4OH0.B3E8ObbhQbadee91vvmUwsUZjR-yqxc_cTpDI9xFemc/img.jpg?width=980" id="335c5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bca67dc7ad396658b127955bc57847dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
(Facebook)<p>Quality Seafood Market opened in 1938 as a humble stall in Starr's Fruit and Vegetable Market on Congress Avenue and has since evolved into one of the city's best-known seafood markets and restaurants. Now situated on Burnet Road, the market is open Monday through Saturday, and its food truck is open Thursday through Saturday afternoons. Curbside dinners for two are also available with a 24 hour notice.<br></p>
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