The Austin City Council convened for its first meeting since the Nov. 8 elections and mainly discussed letting music venues on Red River Street perform for two hours longer at night.
Council members approved the testing of extending the hours when live music can be played from venues on Red River Street to 2 a.m. to bring in more revenue for businesses.
The pilot program for the cultural district will run from May to November and will be considered for renewal for another six months in October. The program would also set the noise limit at 85 decibels, the same as on 6th Street, for the music venues it applies to.
Hotel owners who testified said the noise would drive away customers, and some residents said loud music has disturbed their homes miles away. Mary Ingle, president of Austin Neighborhoods Council, said she lives 30 blocks away from Red River and the music has reached her home for over a decade.
“We’ve been vigilant about calling and (complaining) to 311 with no results for years,” Ingle said. “It ruins our quality of life.”
Business owners and managers said there is no data proving the noise travels far. Allowing bands to play later creates jobs and increases profit, they said.
Ryan Garrett said Stubb’s BBQ has not received any noise complaints since he became general manager in 2008. Mohawk general manager Cody Cowan said the venue has not had noise violations either and extended hours would help pay for the businesses’ rent.
“Additional hours on Red River could provide a hundred hours per month in addition to payroll, which could provide $10,000 in payroll for staff,” Cowan said. “We’re asking that the (venues) on Red River have the opportunity to have a few more hours … to address the issues of jobs (and) opportunities for artists.”
Council Member Ora Houston of District 1 voted against the resolution and Delia Garza of District 2 abstained, with the other council members voting for it.
Another resolution — which supports the access to safe, legal abortions — was approved.
Garza and Kathie Tovo of District 9, which includes UT and areas around campus, said they were glad so many people attended the Women’s March last Saturday.
“I think we are in some very trying times,” Garza said. “I hope that when you see an opportunity to make sure that you’re heard, that you take that opportunity. I just want to thank all the Austinites who attended Saturday’s march.”
Ellen Troxclair of District 8 abstained from the vote, saying she does not want Council to get too political with social issues and alienate people with different opinions.
“I’m not here to take a stance one way or another,” Troxclair said. “Just because we live in Austin and it does tend to have one particular ideology, doesn’t mean that those views are always representative of everybody.”
Houston said she supports access to a legal and safe abortion and supports Planned Parenthood, but would abstain for the same reason as Troxclair.
The Council also passed a resolution approving directing resources into the creation of an LBGTQ Quality of Life Commission. Jimmy Flannigan of District 6, the first openly-gay man elected to Council, will spearhead the commission. Austin Mayor Steve Adler created the commission in October to ensure the LGBT community is represented and protected from hate crimes.