May 4, 2022 - Business

Downtown Austin redevelopment could displace LGBTQ+ bars

The current site of Cuatro Gato and Coconut Club at the corner of Colorado and 4th Streets.

Near the site of the proposed demolition at 310-312 Colorado St. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

The city's Historic Landmark Commission will meet at 6pm Wednesday to consider the demolition of buildings in the Warehouse District, which are home to some of the city's beloved LGBTQ+ nightlife spaces.

State of play: Developers are seeking demolition permit applications to redevelop the historic downtown buildings currently occupied by Oilcan Harry's, Coconut Club and Neon Grotto in the Fourth Street area and Iron Bear on West Sixth Street.

  • The tenants do not own the buildings, meaning they don't have a say in what happens to the property, and the landmark commission only considers whether a building is historic to the city, not the business operators in it.
  • Commissioners will hear from the demolition applicants and accept public comments.

Why it matters: The establishments have long offered safe and welcoming spaces, and critics of the redevelopment say demolition would remove a central part of nightlife for LGBTQ Austinites.

Details: Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz released a rendering Tuesday, showing developer plans for the West Fourth Street block.

  • The proposed apartment tower would create a new space for Oilcan Harry's, moving the bar next to Rain nightclub on Fourth.
  • Oilcan Harry's owners have said the change would actually protect the bar "for decades to come."
A rendering of a proposed development on West Fourth Street in downtown Austin.
A rendering shows the proposed corner at West Fourth Street, which would move Oilcan Harry's next to Rain nightclub. Photo courtesy Solomon Cordwell Buenz

Yes, but: The plan leaves out Coconut Club, which opened its doors in 2019, and Neon Grotto, which arrived in 2021.

  • The commission is also considering proposed development at the site of the Iron Bear after hearing public comments on March 28.
  • The Iron Bear, which moved from Eighth Street to its current home at 301 W. Sixth St. in 2020, has shared multiple Instagram posts encouraging followers to "save the Iron Bear."

Of note: A petition to preserve the district had received more than 4,200 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.


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