The City Will Help Some Music Venues, Art Galleries And Theaters Afford The Rent

Oct 16, 2019

A collection of 26 music venues, theater spaces and art galleries are getting as much as $50,000 each in one-time funds from the City of Austin to cover rent and other property costs.

Earlier this week, the city announced the first group of art spaces and venues to receive funds through its Creative Space Assistance Program, which set aside $750,000 to hand out to qualifying venues. The list includes bars, nightclubs and art spaces such as Cheer Up Charlies, The Museum of Human Achievement and Flamingo Cantina.

Antone’s Nightclub on E. 5th Street will pick up $20,697 from the city.

“The City of Austin should be supporting grant programs like this, and venues should be applying for them, and I feel like that’s just us doing our job,” said Will Bridges, owner of Antone’s, which opened in 1975. Forty-three spaces applied for funding in this first round.

Bridges said he’ll be using the money to cover some of the club’s property taxes, which have more than tripled over the past couple of years. In 2014, Bridges said they owed the county roughly $31,000 in property taxes; this year they owe $98,000.

He said that doesn’t make owning a club in Austin seem like a feasible goal.

“If Antone’s can’t even make it work with all that it has going for it … it doesn’t bode well for others,” Bridges said.

A table from the city of Austin showing how it's distributing grant money
Credit City of Austin

Austin voters last year approved $12 million to help preserve creative spaces, but the city is still considering how it will spend these funds. Council members approved this separate cash assistance program in August, limiting the use to property fees – such as rent or property taxes. Funding has not yet been approved beyond the coming year.  

In March, Council Member Ann Kitchen said while there are some limitations to how the money can be used, the city should be flexible when it comes to letting owners decide how to spend the bond money.

“They’re the experts on how best we can preserve creative spaces,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Creative Space Assistance Program is funded by bond money; instead, it comes directly from the city budget.