Creating new festivals in Austin becoming difficult

Thousands of runners and walkers laced up their shoes for the 26th annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. (KXAN Photo/Julie Karam)
Thousands of runners and walkers laced up their shoes for the 26th annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. (KXAN Photo/Julie Karam)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin is known for having a music festival or running event nearly every weekend. However, some changes to the rules on special events in Austin could make it more challenging for new events to find a home in the city.

According to city officials, 85 percent of the special events that currently take place return year after year. Under this revised special events ordinance, events that have taken place more than 20 years in the city can continue to reserve that spot on the city’s calendar five years out, which could make it challenging for new events to get booked.

“It is difficult to create a new event because there isn’t that many spaces to do it,” says Bill Manno, Special Events Program Manager. “The parking lots are getting fewer and fewer because of all the hotels and condos. There are fewer places to do them outdoors.”

City council is working with the special events department to rework the current ordinance to streamline the process of applying for a permit to hold a special event. The hope is organizers of new events will submit a request for a permit because it’s an easier process.

“We’re trying to make it easier for the smaller events — less cumbersome,” Manno says. “It takes less time to review those so we can get those applications in and approved as soon as possible.”

One other aspect is looking at the number of vendors allowed at events. For example, the people who sell food and t-shirts along Barton Springs Road during ACL. The ordinance will take into consideration the impact they might have on an area to determine how many should be allowed.

The special events department will hold a public open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at One Texas Center on Barton Springs Road to get feedback from the public.

“A lot of event organizers do these events across the country so they have experience of what works well and what doesn’t work well, so we are looking for that type of feedback,” Manno says. “That helps us put things that are tested in other communities into place.”

The new rules will have their final vote before city council Dec. 7.

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