What is a concert hall? The city council seeks to formalize

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Thursday, July 28, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Nearly 32 years after declaring itself the live music capital of the world, Austin is finally set to define what exactly a live music venue is.

A resolution on the agenda for today’s city council meeting seeks to amend the city code and part of the land use planning code to include the specific parameters separating a concert hall – where the music represents a substantial part of the programming and revenue of the business – of a bar, lounge or nightclub, which are already clearly defined in the city code.

The amendment has been a goal of live music players for at least five years and was one of many issues included in the CodeNEXT reform debate that was scrapped in 2018.

Adding the guidelines to the city code would allow the city to specify concert halls as a desired use or possible community benefit similar to affordable housing, with possible incentives for developers who incorporate these uses into new projects in all the city. These incentives are seen as one of the best possible tactics to prevent the relocation of music venues as property values ​​and redevelopment pressures increase in response to the continued influx of new residents and businesses into the area.

The resolution outlines the criteria that could be in place for a business to be defined as a concert venue: charging a fee or admission price for spectators, with a defined payment structure for performers; have a defined performance and audience space; have permanent equipment for the performance of music, including a sound card, audio system and stage lighting; designated hours of operation that coincide with performance times; live music scheduled at least five nights a week; meet the descriptions of outdoor amplified sound performance as defined in the portions of the city code relating to noise and amplified sound regulations, while maintaining a valid outdoor concert venue permit.

During the CodeNEXT discussions, live music advocates created seven criteria for a concert hall, some of which differ from the language of the resolution. These are: The company must have backline equipment; must employ at least two staff members dedicated to tasks such as sound engineering, booking, promotion, management and security; and must market its music programming through print or digital publications.

City staff will also be responsible for researching possible regulatory incentives for new and existing concert halls. These could include fee waivers, modified parking requirements, expanded facilitation of affordable commercial space covenants in new construction, and prioritization of music rooms or creative spaces as a community benefit for bonuses. density or other overlays.

The City Manager is responsible for presenting an ordinance for Council’s consideration even though the incentives are still being developed.

Mayor Steve Adler said music advocates have long seen the need to make open music venues more appealing, while trying to separate such businesses from bars and nightclubs that can draw opposition from neighborhood groups and communities during the planning process.

“The city wants to preserve and protect and make sure that we still have those places in our city as the live music capital of the world, and that’s getting harder and harder to do,” he said. “There are suggestions for how we could encourage those uses in the same way that we encourage affordable housing and other things that are desired in the city.”

The resolution comes as the city gave early approval to increase the height of buildings on part of the Sixth Street entertainment district, with developer Stream Realty Partners frequently saying that concert halls should occupy some of the more than 30 spaces that the company has acquired in recent times. years.

Council member Ann Kitchen called for the resolution to be amended to include definitions of creative spaces such as theaters, galleries and studios, but Adler said language development would take time. The two agreed to revisit the matter with a separate but similar resolution in the future.

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