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How Austin Is Supporting the Local Service Industry After SXSW’s Cancellation

Crowdfunding campaigns and bar events

Cheer Up Charlies
Cheer Up Charlies
Cheer Up Charlies/Facebook
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

It happened: South by Southwest is officially canceled. On Friday, Mayor Steve Adler declared a state of “local disaster” in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, which led to the canceling of all events with more than 2,500 people.

While the right call for the safety of Austin and its residents, pulling the plug on SXSW is also a heavy financial blow to local restaurants, bars, service industry workers, and other businesses who rely on the sprawling annual event and the crowds it brings for seasonal revenue — last year, SXSW injected nearly $356 million into the local economy. Austin restaurants, bars, and organizations are now rallying support for local businesses expected to suffer as a result; many are offering specials on food, drink, and goods purchased in anticipation of SXSW. Here’s a running list of those efforts:

  • Downtown Austin bar The Roosevelt Room is opening its next-door event bar space The Eleanor from Thursday, March 12 through Saturday, March 21. It’s inviting bartenders to come work the bar with a guaranteed shift pay of $150 per person. The bar will donate half of all sales to the Austin chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) and the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. Likewise, the bar is hosting Nashville bartenders who are currently in Austin because of the tornado-related bar closures in the Tennessee city. During those nights, the bar will also donate sales to the Nashville chapter of USBG.
  • Austin fast-casual mini-chain Flyrite Chicken is offering 20 percent off all orders placed by local service industry people from Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 22.
  • San Marcos restaurant Industry is offering a free meal and beer to those in the Austin service industry.
  • Cookie delivery service Tiff’s Treats will donate $5 from orders of $10+ towards the Stand With Austin Fund. Customers will use the code “5XSW” to enact the donation.
  • All locations of Hopdoddy Burger Bar will donate partial proceeds from Goodnight/Good Cause burgers and Lil’ Larry Margaritas towards the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians from Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 22. On Wednesday, March 18, the South Congress, Triangle, and Anderson Plaza locations will host HAAM musicians from 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Downtown entertainment district The Red River Cultural District (RRCD), event promotion companies Heard Presents and Margin Walker, and live music startup Prism.FM, put together a GoFundMe campaign to support artists and workers affected by the SXSW cancellation. Banding Together ATX seeking $100,000 to help those looking to still perform during what would’ve been the ten-day festival, help the affected pay bills and rent, and to help offset SXSW-related expenses incurred in advance of the festival. The RRCD represents most of the music venues, bars, and restaurants along the downtown street, including Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlies, and Stubb’s. The organizers are also looking to put together showcases to make up for canceled SXSW concerts.
  • Advertising agency T3 put together their own GoFundMe campaign to support Austin’s service industry. South by South Best is looking to raise $5,000 to make up for lost tips people employed by local restaurants, bars, venues, and hotels.
  • Austin gig workers and businesses owners are straight up sharing how much income they have lost due to canceled SXSW-related jobs on newly launched website I Lost My Gig. Listed are names, job titles, and the amount of income lost, as well as links to personal online/mobile payment services for those who wish to help contribute. Brent Fogerty of frozen popsicle catering company Cold Ones Pops lost $2,250 according to the site.
  • Nonprofit organization Austin Community Foundation launched a fund to help support businesses and people affected by SXSW’s cancellation. The Stand With Austin Fund is being endorsed by SXSW itself, as well as Mayor Steve Adler. Within the fund, Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation (which helped assist the hospitality industry after Hurricane Harvey in 2017) will oversee the Austin hospitality portion.
  • Houston-based charitable foundation Southern Smoke is also offering its channel for those looking to support the Austin service industry with the Austin Relief Fund. Service industry workers who are looking for financial assistance can apply for funds too.
  • Restaurant financing company InKind is offering to set up its house account services for restaurants for free as a result of the SXSW cancellation. Via house accounts, diners essentially pay for meals ahead of time, which means there’s more cash for the restaurant during a tough time. The company typically takes five percent of each sale. Current participants include TLC, Salt & Time, The Brewer’s Table, and others.
  • An Austin citizen, Harold Cook, proposed tipping double your usual amount during SXSW week via Twitter hashtag #TipForTwo.
  • Both Austin gelato shop Gelateria Gemelli and Chinese food delivery restaurant Tso Delivery are looking to help minimize food waste as a result of SXSW’s cancellation. Gemelli owner Andy Sabola is also looking to connect with other businesses that are looking to help with pop-up lunches and dinners at the East Sixth store. Tso Chinese Delivery is offering to add SXSW-intended food and drinks that are resell-able to its online ordering system. Thus customers could add items to their delivery order. Interested people can reach out to
  • Fitness studio Urban Lagree is hosting fundraising classes on Saturday, March 14, where all proceeds will go towards the Stand With Austin fund (see above). The first class will be held at 4:30 p.m. for $15.

Know of other SXSW-related fundraisers, events, and efforts? Let Eater know via or through the tipline.

The Eleanor

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