Downtown Austin is famous around the world for its live music. Music literally powers the downtown economy. It draws people out at night, conventions to town, and tourists to the City.
Not long ago, live music and downtown residences were naturally separated: their were almost no residents in the downtown core. Those who did live downtown — in the Railyard apartments and a handful of other buildings — were adventurous.
Today, the number of residents downtown has greatly expanded — bringing new conflict between bars and downtown residents. But the live music scene has also shifted to formerly residential pockets of downtown. On Rainey Street and West 6th street near Lamar, a flood of new bars and venues is raising neighborhood tensions.
According to KXAN news, “Some residents who live at Posada Del Rey condominiums near West Sixth street are trying to block a music permit for a new bar opening next week called Rattle Inn, worried it will add to the increasing noise downtown.
“When I moved here, this was a historical quiet district with no bars. It was very quiet. Never dreaming it would be rezoned and changed the way it did,” said Susan Sullivan, who has lived in the same spot for about 20 years. “The noise is outrageous. We have about 20 bars within this area. I can see four of them through my bedroom window.”
Sullivan has already tried to fix the problem herself.
“I have spent about $10,000 dollars trying to sound proof my bedroom,” she said.
She is one of around 40 nearby residents who have signed a petition trying to prevent another bar, The Rattle Inn, from getting an outdoor music permit and adding to the noise. The new bar is near West 6th and Nueces and has a large, open patio on the second level with about 18 speakers. It is still being constructed.”
To address these complaints, the City of Austin’s music department is conducting sound tests within downtown units before approving new permits. In other cases, developers of new projects are funding projects to reduce the noise from neighboring bars. When 360 was constructed, for example, the developers funded significant enhancements to Austin Music Hall.
In the end, these problems will continue to grow as the downtown music scenes continues to expand, downtown Austin continues to thrive, and new residents flock to live downtown. Both music and downtown residents are essential parts of the downtown ecosystem. The result will need to be compromise, requirements for bars to make improvements to limit external noise, and investments from developers to allow residents to live comfortably near music.