speak peek

A first glimpse into the new Beauty Ballroom: Light on glitter, heavy on character

First things first; it’s not just a concrete box with lots of glitter.

Spoken or not, that question has been on lots of mind of lots of folks since the annoncement last year that Austin’s Beauty Bar was going to open a new, much larger location on East Riverside within beer bottle chucking distance from the new Emo’s East.

And when the new Emo’s was seen to be a very large concrete box (essentially), there was at least a little worry that the move for the new Beauty Ballroom would find the club in a similarly character-deficient space.

But that’s not the case, as an early walk through of the new location by CultureMap on Monday showed the 700 capacity room is a very compartmentalized space that will allow for a feeling of intimacy, even when bright lights and a thundering sound system rattle a packed crowd.

Most recently a dance club, the it’s been redecorated in the chain’s glitter-accentuated motif by Steven Hammel, the man responsible for the look of every club in the chain.


 While finishing touches were still underway during our tour — the venue has its soft opening this Friday with a visit by rapper Kendrick Lamar — the general shape and contour of the room was completed, with a 20-by-25-foot stage and a half-level raised observation area at the rear of the performance space for better views or to host DJs for smaller shows.

An upper balcony and lounge area features plenty of furniture for a relaxed atmosphere and a pair of smaller rooms that will be outfitted with karaoke equipment to be rented out for small parties.

Managing partner Bart Butler said the bigger space than Beauty Bar’s current location on 7th Street — which can only accommodate a few hundred people inside and out — will allow Beauty Ballroom operate as a more full-service music venue rather than bar that shoehorns bands and DJs onto its premises.

Its early plan is to be open Wednesday through Sunday, regardless of show schedule, to give area residents a low-key place to have a drink on most nights of the week.

We knew we had to mesh the look of the Beauty Bar with the feel of an actual venue, because we’ve always felt that [the bar's] 7th Street location was not ideal when it came to hosting music,” Butler said.

“This is much more conducive to having a nice, cool show for lots of people, and it’s far larger than any of the other Beauty Bar locations across the country. The [concert] calendar is already looking great, and we hope the first few months of shows will work really well to sell this room to acts and to the people around here.”

With a grand opening slated for Jan. 27 featuring electro/R&B singer Theophilus London, the Beauty Ballroom will move ahead with visits by rapper Yelawolf, metal band YOB, punk act Authority Zero, a February date by Austin world funk band Grupo Fantasma (taping a live DVD) and it will partner with Emo’s East to host this year’s Austin Psych Fest at the end of April.

“We’re really making an effort to make it a diverse room because we don’t want to be pigeon-holed like the 7th Street location was as this place that’s just for hipsters to come out and dance,” said Butler.

“We’ll do country here, we’ll definitely do hip hop, and we want to take advantage of having a room this big and nice, while also doing smaller shows where we can block off the upstairs to give the place a more packed-in feeling.”


Renovation work began in October of 2011: “It took us forever to rip out the hundreds of yards of neon the dance club had in this place.” 

Butler said the facelift’s price tag will come in at less than $1 million total. With a 20 year lease on the property, he said he and his partners are enthusiastic about the pace of development bringing students and music fans in general to the Riverside area.

You look at everything that’s going on around here, and it just makes sense with all the new apartments going up and all the action moving this way,” Butler said.

“We knew this was where it made sense to be, and even if the first year is a bit of a struggle to get the word out and get people coming down here, we think in the long run [Riverside] is going to be a good place for us.”

I was a little worried when I heard they were moving [to East Riverside], but once I found out what the old space was, I knew that as long as they kept the general structure in place it’d work out really well. And it’s a nice, diverse space that I can’t wait to see in action,” said Aaron Berkowitz, co-owner of Austin event promotion company Knuckle Rumbler, which has booked the RAC DJs at the club for this Saturday.

“I think the dance crowd who have been patrons of the current Beauty Bar will like it, and it’s going to catch on quickly. I’d like to be in there as often as possible — anything I do that’d need a space for more than 500 people, that’d be my desirable venue.”