2022 is the year of the listening bar in Austin — intimate spaces where people gather to listen to records — with two Travis Heights hotels opening new music-centric lounges on deck this year. First is Miami-based vinyl listening bar Dante’s HiFi within Soho House, which opened already. The second is the forthcoming Equipment Room inside Hotel Magdalena, set to open by the end of 2022.
Listenings bars — jazz kissa (jazz cafes) and record bars — became popular in Japan in the 1950s as a way to listen to imported records with high-quality stereo equipment in a shared space. In America, these establishments are often called hi-fi (high-fidelity sound reproduction) bars.
Dante’s HiFi, which opened on August 4 at 1011 South Congress Avenue, Building 2, Suite 100, will only be open for a year. Because of the exclusivity of its home site, the listening bar is only open for members and their guests. This isn’t like its Miami counterpart, which opened in September 2021 and is open for public reservations.
The cocktail menu includes cocktails such as La Bodega with stool, mezcal, charred shishito peppers, and a red wine float; draft nitro espresso martinis; the Sweetest Taboo with bourbon, light brown sugar, and a plantain concoction; and an array of tonic drinks. There are also wines and Austin beers.
Overseeing the music is director Rich Medina, who will make use of his own personal vinyl collection. The music setup includes a system by Miami audio store Soundlux, which includes vintage speakers and a tube power amplifier. Dante physically took over what had been the hotel’s pre-screening room. There will be programming events like discussions and film screenings.
Along with Medina, other Dante co-founders and partners include Sven Vogtland, Alan Drummond, Jourdan Binder, Arturo Nuñez, and Walshy Fire. Similarly, Soho House also opened a members-only Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s, in June.
Just a stone’s throw away from Dante’s HiFi will be Equipment Room inside the Hotel Magdalena on 1101 Music Lane. The vinyl bar is aiming to debut at the end of December. Unlike Dante’s, Equipment Room will be open to the public.
Involved in Equipment Room are James Moody, the owner of downtown music venue the Mohawk and co-founder of food and music festival Hot Luck; and Josh LaRue and Gabe Vaughn, the co-owners of North Loop shop Breakaways Records, as reported by Statesman, as well as the hotel’s parent company Bunkhouse.
LaRue and Vaughn will curate Equipment’s record collection, and they plan on really highlighting Texas music. Statesman also reports that they’re working with high-end speaker company Klipsch to build out the basement space.
There will also be cocktails and a snacks menu helmed by the hotel’s executive chef Jeffrey Hundelt.