City of Austin officials are trying to keep events during South by Southwest near the same level of activity as 2015. More amplified sound permits were issued this year, but overall, the city has maintained the dialed-back approach it adopted after 2014 – the year Rashad Owens crashed his car through a crowd of people on Red River Street, killing four.
“In 2014, it was just crazy busy,” the city's Corporate Special Events Manager Bill Manno says. “With everything going on, the number of events, the amount of staff we have to review and inspect those sites, it just seemed like it was getting chaotic.”
Last year, the biggest reduction in permits were those for amplified sound. Those permits allow music up to 85 decibels as late as 2 a.m., depending on some restrictions. In 2014, the city issued 106. Last year, it cut that in half to 53. This year, city officials increased the number again to 71.
“We are trying to get it back to where the music community enjoys it, while city staff can still have ample resources to review and inspect all those applications,” Manno says.
The other two main categories of event permits are for parking lots or empty lots (Temporary Use Permits, or TUPs) and permits for buildings (Temporary Change of Use Permits or TCOUs). The number of those issued this year, about 70 each, was little changed from 2015.
The city had intended to track which events would be giving out free alcohol in an attempt to monitor where excessive drinking may occur, but Manno says they stopped because “there were too many other things going on.”
Instead, the city is keeping tabs on which events have permits to serve alcohol, free or not, and which don’t. You can see all of that in our Google Map. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says it will have inspectors visiting events to ensure drunk and underage people are not being served.
The Austin Fire Department will send out inspectors looking for overcrowding at events, blocked exits and other violations. “We spend 11 months preparing for this," City Fire Marshall Rob Vires says. "It’s not our first time."