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The long goodbye: Coconut Club is still on track to close down

The rooftop of a club with glass skyscrapers behind
Karina Lujan
Guests wait for a drag brunch to begin at Coconut Club in 2022.

Coconut Club, a beloved LGBTQ+ bar and nightclub in downtown Austin, hosted an unofficial goodbye party last New Year's Eve. That spring, several LGBTQ+ bars on West Fourth and Colorado streets learned they would be demolished to make way for a high-rise building.

“The Last Dance” had people dancing for hours on the purple rooftop under the club’s name in red neon lights.

But, almost two years after the initial announcement, the club is still standing.

Community members have been left wondering: Is the club still closing down?

Plans for development

The development plans sparked outrage among the community; a petition to #BlockTheBuild received over 5,000 signatures. A campaign on Instagram also drew attention to the project and advocated to “Save 4th Street.”

There were efforts to get historic zoning for the LGBTQ+ venues planned for demolition. In response, Houston-based developer Hanover Company announced several bars along Fourth Street would be only partially demolished, with theirfacades preserved. Those on Colorado Street would be completely torn down, however, to make way for a 40-story mixed-use building with 400 residential units.

That meant Coconut Club would be leveled, but no one knew when that would happen, so people danced while they still could at what they thought would be the club’s final night.

Drag Queen Brigitte Bandit, who runs the weekly Coco C- - - - Drag Brunch show, said it was a bittersweet night. Things got a little confusing when the club remained open months later.

“Then they say, ‘Oh, it’s going to shut down after South by Southwest.’ Then ‘Oh, it’s going to shut down after the new year again,’” she said.

Bandit said the closing date was pushed back several times, and the uncertainty put performers and staff in limbo.

“I was very frustrated and very upset, not only with it closing down, but the lack of transparency and communication about that happening,” Bandit said. “It was really hard as somebody who puts on a weekly event that is a large part of my income.”

Now, she said, she’s just along for the ride and taking things month by month.

“I know that we still have a few more months, at least,” Bandit said. “I’m just gonna keep doing my weekly show as long as the building is still there, you know?”

She said people’s livelihoods are on the line, and she hopes the club will stay open for as long as it can.

Keeping things operational

Coconut Club’s manager, Joseph Aguirre, said he’s seen the downtown area change a lot over the years while living in Austin. He said the staff has been taking things day by day.

“Which kind of makes planning further out a little more hectic and not the easiest to manage,” Aguirre said. “But we love this spot so much that we just want to be here as long as possible.”

A When Where What Austin post on Instagram sparked a recent conversation about the club staying open for the foreseeable future and even making some renovations to the building. Aguirre said it’s been hard planning the maintenance of the building without knowing when it’ll have to shut down.

“[The post] was mostly a joke, I think, being like ‘Coconut Club is still open and now we’re painting the restrooms,’ because it’s funny,” he said.

Aguirre said it’s one effort to keep the club operational and enjoyable until the end.

“We’re by no means letting the building rot or crumble,” he said. “We’re going to be open for some time, and we’re just going to enjoy it while we can.”

Every day the club is still open, Aguirre said, someone will come in saying they thought the club would be closed already. With the closing date having been moved already once, there was a point where staff thought the club wouldn’t make it past October.

“But we’re already planning for South by Southwest, so I think it’s safe to say we’ll be here through then and then March,” Aguirre said.

He’s not sure what will come beyond that but has heard the club will possibly close down in the summer.

Cole Evans, co-owner of Coconut Club, said he hasn’t heard much from developers and doesn’t know what their timeline is for the proposed demolition. He said it’s important to note they knew Coconut Club’s time could end early when they signed the lease, as long as they were given notice at least two years in advance.

Aguirre said whenever a finite date is announced, Coconut Club will likely make an event out of it and celebrate the club every day leading up to it.

The developer, Hanover Company, did not respond to a request for comment.

Maya Fawaz is KUT's Hays County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @mayagfawaz.
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