Stubbs in Austin, Texas Gets All Fancy

Bigger serving of Stubb’s planned

Restaurant to expand music operations with new indoor venue, bigger outdoor stage.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, December 13, 2006What started 10 years ago as a barbecue joint with an uncovered outdoor stage will be transformed into a live music complex with a new 1,400-capacity indoor nightclub and a reconfigured outdoor amphitheater that plays to the land’s natural slope.

Stubb’s Bar-B-Q owners plan to spend $5 million on the expansion, which is expected to break ground next fall. Work could be completed as early as summer 2008. The five co-owners of Stubb’s, who will finance the project themselves, bought the former Oak Farms dairy on Ninth Street six years ago. Plans call for the Stubb’s outdoor stage to be repositioned on that property, facing west.

 

CRAIG NASSO

A new indoor nightclub is planned for the corner of Red River and Seventh streets. The restaurant will remain at 801 Red River St.

 

CRAIG NASSO

The new outdoor stage will be flanked by two-story balconies.

 

Deborah Cannon
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Charles Attal, left, and Jeff Waughtal — two of the five Stubb’s co-owners — purchased the former Oak Farms dairy six years ago.

That’s good news for guests at the Austin Marriott at the Capitol two blocks north and residents as far away as Hyde Park, who often feel like they’ve got a band playing next door when the sound from Stubb’s shoots up the Waller Creek corridor. Capacity at the outdoor venue will rise from 2,100 to 3,000. Two-story balconies will be built above the compound, helping to contain the sound, said Stubb’s partner Charles Attal.

The former Oak Farms land is in a flood plain, and Stubb’s is working with city staff to resolve that issue, Stubb’s co-owner Jeff Waughtal said. “It’s a long process.”

The Stubb’s expansion has the support of City Manager Toby Futrell. “Because of the flood plain on the last half of the block, they may have to build up a bit,” Futrell said, adding that if the Waller Creek tunnel project, currently on hold because of a lack of funds, gets back on track, Stubb’s would be entirely out of the flood plain. “We’ll figure out a way to make it work,” she said.

Attal said the expansion reflects the owners’ growing experience in the music business.

“Stubb’s was built on a shoestring,” said Attal, who books the venue, as well as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza. “We were in our 20s when we started. We’ve learned a lot, and now we know what it takes to build a world-class concert venue.”

The current portable bathrooms will be replaced by permanent facilities, and the spacious new backstage area will have dressing rooms, an artist lounge and plentiful tour bus parking. The restaurant, in an old stone building at 801 Red River St., will remain.

Waughtal said the new plans “grew out of what Austin has become.” Indeed, this latest project continues the enhancement of a downtown Austin music scene formerly incubated in dank dives, former restaurants and, in the case of the late, lamented Liberty Lunch, a former lumberyard.

In July, owners of the Austin Music Hall and the nearby under-construction 360 Condominiums announced a $5 million joint overhaul of the live music club at 208 Nueces St. The upgrade, which has not yet started, will include new lighting and sound systems and expand the hall’s capacity from 3,000 to 4,000. A new late-night restaurant is planned at the location.

Last week, Willie Nelson and his nephew Freddy Fletcher announced they would be part-owners of a 2,000-capacity venue planned on West Second Street to serve as the new home of “Austin City Limits,” as well as a House of Blues-style club on nights when there are no tapings. Cost of that project, helmed by Stratus Properties Inc., is estimated at $15 million. The new multi-use venue is expected to be built in time for the 2010 season of the venerable TV music show.

“I’m really excited to see the proliferation of new and/or redeveloped venues, particularly in downtown,” Austin Mayor Will Wynn said Tuesday. “And the more we have within walking or pedicab distance of each other, the better.”

Stubb’s owners have been working on the new complex for three years, Waughtal said. “I went around the country looking at the best clubs, seeing what worked and what didn’t,” he said. “What I found was that I liked the feel of the independent clubs like the Bowery Ballroom in New York and 9:30 in D.C., but I liked a lot of things about the corporately owned clubs like House of Blues.”

Waughtal said he wants the new Stubb’s to retain an indie feel, but with greater stage and sound production capabilities.

The new indoor venue not only gives booker Attal more flexibility but adds a big, rain-proof room for the restaurant’s private party catering operation. That hall is planned for the north end of the Stubb’s block, where a new incarnation of Liberty Lunch once was proposed. After that club closed in 1999 to make way for the Computer Sciences Corp. headquarters, the city offered Lunch owners Mark Pratz and J-Net Ward a $600,000 loan to help relocate. But when projected costs for a new Lunch at Ninth and Red River far exceeded the loan amount, that project was abandoned in 2003.

Waughtal said Stubb’s owners kept alive the idea of more music on the block. Besides Attal and Waughtal, the other owners are a trio of former Lubbockites: Eddie Patterson, John Scott and Scott Jensen. Those three also own Stubb’s sauce company, a separate business from the restaurant and nightclub.

“We’ve been saving our money for three years,” Waughtal said. “This is a long process that will go through multiple stages. But when we’re done we hope to build a place that will do justice to the artists and make Austin proud.”

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