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Survey shows Austin's downtown bars are back to business as usual. Music venues? Not so much.

Pedestrians walk past closed music venues in the Red River Cultural District on Sept. 6, 2020.
Julia Reihs
Pedestrians walk past closed music venues in the Red River Cultural District last year.

Austin's music scene is (still) struggling to get back into the swing of things, a new survey of businesses shows.

The Downtown Austin Alliance's survey shows that bars, restaurants and venues on West Sixth and Rainey streets are pretty much back to normal, as far as alcohol sales go. Red River and East Sixth Street bars and clubs haven't quite made it back to their average alcohol sales from before the pandemic.

"Total monthly alcohol sales and weekly visits to East 6th Street and Red River have consistently lagged their counterparts in recovering," the survey, out this week, reads. "This highlights the economic losses these businesses have experienced during the pandemic as live music stages, the key driver to these districts, were closed throughout most of 2020."

Downtown Austin Alliance

To find this out, DAA looked at receipts for alcohol sales from the Texas Comptroller and foot traffic analysis from the firm

Downtown Austin Alliance

Venues consistently struggled throughout the pandemic, with most not reopening at full capacity until May of this year. The spike in delta variant cases over the summer complicated that reopening. The DAA's survey notes that roughly 20% of businesses along East Sixth and 10% of businesses along Red River are either permanently or temporarily closed.

The DAA puts some of that onus on the inability of venues and clubs to retain staff — and a lack of crowds. The survey suggests staffing "levels in the [live music] industry remain low" and that demand hasn't quite spiked the way it has for businesses along Rainey and West Sixth.

Venues were among the first to close as Austin shut down amid rising COVID cases. While they've received some money from city, state and federal relief programs, venue operators have long struggled to stay afloat in Austin amid rising rents and paper-thin profit margins.

Got a tip? Email Andrew Weber at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.

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Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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