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Courtesy of KVUE

Austin's rising cost of living continues to force local business owners to make tough decisions. On Thursday, December 1, vegan restaurant Counter Culture announced it will close at the end of the year.

"For the past three years, I've been looking for a building to buy," said Susan Davis, Counter Culture owner. "That was always my next step. Prices have just really increased. It just doesn't seem feasible right now."

She said there are other factors that played into her decision, including the pandemic, the rise of remote working, staff retention, and the increased cost of goods.

Davis said in a post on social media that the restaurant, located at 2337 E. Cesar Chavez St., will close when its lease ends at the end of December. Prior to its 11 years on Cesar Chavez, Counter Culture had a location on North Loop Boulevard for two-and-a-half years.

"People have been coming here since before their kids were born," said Riley Haun, Counter Culture lead server. "We've had weddings here. So, I've ... heard all of those stories. And it's like everyone is pretty sad that, you know, it's like their memories are kind of gone."

Starting on Monday, December 5, Counter Culture will go to a reduced hours schedule. The restaurant will be open Monday through Wednesday from 5 pm to 10 pm and Thursday through Sunday from 11 am to 10 pm.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Gelateria Gemelli/Facebook

East Sixth Street's gelato and cocktail haven says ciao to Austin

A Gelato for the Road

Gelateria Gemelli, an East Sixth Street gelato shop known for its creative flavors like Fernet stracciatella and Vietnamese coffee, announced its upcoming closure in a September 28 Instagram post.

“Y’all, it’s been a long road,” owner Andrew Sabola wrote. “8 years of negronis, spritzes, teaching people how to say ‘stracciatella,’ first dates that turned into marriages, pop ups, cones on cones on cones, birthday parties, Fernet shots, laughter, and tears.”

Sabola attributes the closure to the COVID-19 pandemic, which slashed the customer base. Some loyal supporters kept the business going, but it never returned to its pre-pandemic sales. The gelateria will keep the lights on until November 1, giving the business plenty of time to say goodbye to fans and get some last cones out there.

The shop opened in 2015, after Sabola returned from a trip to Bologna with a friend — both Gemini — learning from gelato masters and getting accustomed to finishing off dessert with aperitivi like negroni. Living up to this one-two punch, the gelato shop served coffee and old fashioned cocktails. It had a broad selection of amaro sorted by provenance.

Sabola has always been outspoken, and has made news in the past talking about social issues. In 2015, he told L Style G Style that in building the shop, he shrugged off the notion of gendered bathrooms with trans customers in mind. In 2020, he told Eater that his glass door, broken in protests against police brutality, did not matter compared to the sociopolitical issue at hand.

The business stayed closed a little longer than necessary in May of 2020 after Texas businesses started opening up again, to protect its staff. It also made CultureMap’s 2021 list of eateries that were continuing to require masks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that mandates would be lifted.

On the tail end of the pandemic, trends in closures and openings are hard to predict. Some businesses have gone so far through the rollercoaster of losing and gaining business that they have returned after seemingly permanent closures. Second Bar + Kitchen, G’Raj Mahal, and Ski Shores Cafe have all performed this very contemporary song and dance since June of 2022.

“From the bottom of my cold, gay heart: thank you for making Gemelli your own,” wrote Sabola. “I wanted to build something beautiful and put it out into the world and hoped that y’all would love it. You did.”

Photo courtesy of the Moody College of Communication

Matthew McConaughey film about Texas girls soccer team abruptly sidelined

Movie news

A new film starring Matthew McConaughey as the coach of an inspirational girls soccer team from Dallas has been sidelined just six weeks before production.

According to Deadline, Skydance Productions canceled Dallas Sting due to "an impropriety that Skydance and producers were aware of."

The Hollywood Reporter specifies that "Skydance and the producers received disturbing allegations surrounding aspects of the true story on which the drama was based."

McConaughey is also out, according to both news outlets.

He was set to star as Bill Kinder, the coach of a team of Dallas-area high school students who, in 1984, traveled to China and beat teams from China, Italy, and Australia. Kinder had no prior coaching experience at the time. The team made history in the 1980s as the first American soccer team to win a major international tournament, and the film reportedly was to be set against the historical backdrop of the United States' foreign relations efforts with China.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever had signed on to play McConaughey's daughter.

Production was set to begin in October in New Orleans.

As Deadline writer Mike Fleming, Jr. writes,

This had the making of a truly inspiring sports film, and I understand that the Skydance production chiefs and the producers are heartbroken to let this one go. But the tight timeline and the allegations left them little choice. Kari Skogland was set to direct the film developed by Skydance and Berlanti Schechter Productions. Skydance was financing. Apple, which has an overall deal with Skydance, had a first look at the film, but it is unclear if any commitment was made by the streamer.

Full details of the allegations that Skydance found had not been revealed as of September 15, but, Deadline says, they were serious enough to get them to pull out of the movie.

Courtesy of Crema Bakery, Instagram

South Austin's Crema Bakery & Cafe set to close in September

Crema of the crop

KVUE — Crema Bakery & Cafe announced on Instagram that it will be closing its doors for good on September 17.

The South Austin bakery, located on 9001 Brodie Lane Suite B3, posted on Instagram to let both the community and its followers know the reasoning behind the closure. The owner cited the pandemic, rising costs of supplies, and staffing issues being the root cause.

"The final nail in the coffin was our landlord requiring a minimum five-year lease," the post explained. "We can't even pay rent right now, so I just couldn't do it."

Crema will be creating a "fill the freezer" menu, wherein the bakery will be batch-making fan favorites from the last few years for those that would like to "hold onto the magic for a little longer."

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Courtesy of The Steeping Room

Revered Rosedale teahouse and restaurant to close, but it's not all bad news

Tea Leaves

Well, it's a typical day in Austin: When one restaurant opens, another one closes. Rosedale's revered teahouse and shop, The Steeping Room, announced Thursday, September 1 that it will brew its last teapot on September 24.

Founded in 2007 by Emily Morrison and Amy March, The Steeping Room has served the Austin community for more than 15 years. The local business was one of the first to settle in The Domain, and Austin's first full-service restaurant and retail top dedicated to bringing connoisseur-quality teas from around the world to Central Texas.

The team opened their second location in Rosedale in 2012, later choosing to consolidate the business to that location in 2017, in light of the expansion of the Domain Northside. The consolidation allowed them to focus on growing their online tea shop, wholesale café and restaurant program, and launching their packaged baked goods and wholesale pastry line.

The tea shop built a very loyal following in its 15 years, attracting tea lovers and healthy food enthusiasts alike. And there are several silver linings for those fans. First, March and Morrison have decided to turn their attention to further growing their online tea market, expanding their wholesale tea program to partners in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. They will also continue to do special events, pop-ups, and seasonal catering.

Further, the team announced launch plans for the opening of a tasting room where they can hold classes and do small group tastings. In product news, March intends to introduce a new line of teahouse-inspired frozen doughs and baking mixes, as well as commence work on her “communitea” cookbook to share some of her and her team’s favorite treats and specialties while chronicling her journey into mentorship in both the service and wellness industries.

For now, the Rosedale location will continue brewing up delicious, comforting teas until the end of its lease on September 24.

"The Steeping Room’s guiding principles have always been based in community building," the team shared in a release. "It has been co-created through the years with a talented and loyal team of people who have become an extended family while being shaped by our local community. Now, the TSR team looks forward to celebrating the joy of tea and delicious food with their restaurant family and beloved patrons as they finish out their time in Rosedale and plan their next phase for Austin and beyond."

Photo courtesy of Reina

New high-rise development spells the end for reigning Rainey Street bar

Make it Reina

KVUE — Another Rainey Street bar is closing its doors.

Reina announced on Instagram Friday, August 5, that its last day of operation will be Sunday, September 11. In the post, staff said they "knew this was coming and that our days were numbered."

In late July, the Austin Planning Commission reportedly approved a conditional-use permit for a four-story cocktail lounge inside a proposed 49-story high-rise at 80 Rainey St. The building site has multiple lots, including the bungalow house where Reina is located.

In a second Instagram post, Reina staff provided more information about its impending closure, saying that it is their understanding that the bungalow house will stay on the property "with the development going up around it," though they don't know what its function will be.

"We LOVE and sincerely appreciate that it's being preserved so that the old can exist with the new," Reina said in part. "The street will be different but lots of great opportunities and experiences are coming too. Rainey Street has gone through many changes over the years even before Reina and the other bars existed, and this is the net phase. And another phase will follow one day."

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

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2 trailblazing Texans to be honored with history-making award at Austin museum

local history ripples

There are many conceptions of Texas around the world, but most can agree that Texans do have a knack for making history. An annual acknowledgement by the Texas State History Museum Foundation (TSHMF) will celebrate the contributions of two very different Texans who used their leadership skills to coordinate huge wins for their respective teams.

Retired Navy Admiral and former University of Texas System Chancellor William H. McRaven and former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach will be honored with the History-Making Texan Award at the 19th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner, taking place March 2, 2023, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Photo courtesy of Bullock Museum

The History-Making Texan Award winners will be celebrated at the Bullock on March 2.

McRaven’s contributions and Staubach’s are similar by nature of leading teams — one commanded troops and the other played an integral part in the Dallas Cowboys into a wave of undeniable success — but the similarities mostly stop there.

McRaven led troops to rescue the ransomed Captain Richard Phillips, search for Osama Bin Laden, and ultimately capture Iraqi politician Saddam Hussein. The Four-Star admiral has advised U.S. presidents in his retirement and written several books, mostly imparting wisdom around changing one’s own life, and hopefully the world around them.

Staubach took a more entertainment-based path to greatness, rising to fame as a star player while lifting the rest of the Cowboys with him. The team had nine consecutive winning seasons with Staubach, of 20 total. Aside from giving Texans yet another point of state pride, Staubach spent his retirement and influence on real estate and philanthropy.

“Our recipients reached the pinnacle of accomplishments and eminence in their fields. Importantly, they were selected as honorees based on their personal character and commitment to improving the lives of others,” said dinner chair and TSHMF trustee Lisa Cooley in a press release. “They stand as role models to emulate, and we look forward to sharing their dramatic and inspiring stories with our guests.”

The dinner supports the Bullock Texas State History Museum with ticket sales and underwriting from nearly 500 attendees annually. Austin’s Jan Felts Bullock, wife of Bob Bullock and museum trustee, joins Dallas’ Cooley as honorary chair. In 2022, the award went to pianist James Dick and philanthropist Lyda Hill.

More information about the foundation and the History-Making Texan Award is available at tshmf.org.

SXSW rolls out next round of music showcases for 2023, including 29 Austin artists

300 more

Obviously, 190 music showcases is not enough for South by Southwest. That’s 19 a day? Make it another 301. On December 7, SXSW announced the second round of 2023 showcasing artists, bringing the current total to almost 500 acts performing March 13-18, 2023, in Austin.

Of those newly announced artists, 29 are from Austin, and eight more are from Texas, keeping the local numbers relatively high compared to the whole world. This round contains almost 10 percent Austin bands, while the first round contained nearly 7 percent.

Some of the more widely recognizable Austin acts announced in the second round include:

  • Good Looks: Vocalist and guitarist Tyler Jordan cites an increasingly venerated Austin band, Spoon, as an influence. Good Looks is guitar riff-driven, wistful, and a little Southern in sound.
  • Graham Reynolds (solo), Graham Reynolds & The Golden Arm Trio: A prolific composer and bandleader, Reynolds’ name pops up all over Austin films and awards ceremonies. He appears solo and with an eclectic jazz trio.
  • Kalu & The Electric Joint: Frontman Kalu James arrived in Austin from Nigeria at 18 and has made a strong name for himself (and guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt) through psychedelic, vaguely jazzy, and decidedly funky jams.
  • Pleasure Venom: One of the rawest acts in town, Pleasure Venom is well-known for punk hits (and honest takes) that don’t hold back. The band is consistently making news between lots of live shows and festival appearances.
  • Primo the Alien: Solo artist and producer Primo the Alien is bringing the 80s back with synthy electro-pop. She attaches it all to a double persona that’s both candid on social media and a delivery system for sensory overload onstage.
  • The Tiarras: A triple-threat band of sisters, The Tiarras are always thinking about family and stepping into their power. They’ve tackled topics like lesbian and Latina representation, and although they’re young, they’re seasoned pros.

The remaining Austin bands in the second round are: Andrea Magee, Big Wy's Brass Band, Billy King & The Bad Bad Bad, Caleb De Casper, Daiistar, Del Castillo, El Combo Oscuro, Font, JM Stevens, Johnny Chops, Marshall Hood, Otis Wilkins, Pink Nasty Meets El Cento, Rett Smith, Rod Gatort, Schatzi, Shooks, S.L. Houser, The Tender Things, Thor & Friends, Trouble in The Streets, and West Texas Exiles.

Showcases are the base unit of the SXSW music experience, so to speak. They may be solo or part of a multi-day affair, especially when sponsored by large entities like Rolling Stone. Attendees with music wristbands get priority, but all wristbands get access if space remains.

Even as the lineup seems to bulge at the seams, a press release states that there are more to come. A full schedule of showcasing artists, where users can select events for their customized schedule, is available at schedule.sxsw.com.

Austin's Central Library announces open call for artists for future gallery exhibits

Beyond Books

People can learn a lot at the library. Besides all the books, magazines, online resources, and in-person programming, Austinites enjoy a buffet of rotating art exhibits that populate the gallery at the Central Library downtown, publicizing local artists and teaching visitors about the culture around them.

Now the ever-changing Austin Public Library is looking for another new exhibit sometime in 2024 between January and September, and inviting artists to apply through February 28.

Good news for artists who crave freedom, and frustrating news for artists who love something to bounce off of: This engagement offers few to no parameters. There is no explicit theme, but the library does claim a mission in a press release about the call for artists.

“The mission of the Central Library Gallery is to support local artists and art communities, raise awareness of contemporary and diverse forms of art, and to provide exhibitions in which a wide variety of identities and interests are represented,” said the release.

The Central Library website lists four current exhibitions: Hannah Hannah lends some expressionist portraits, Release the Puppets tells stories in a classic and playful medium, the Austin American-Statesman explores Austin communities of color through photographs, and a traveling exhibition documents Pride parades of the past.

The call is addressed to “artists, collectives, curators and beyond,” further widening the possibilities, but still restricting them to applicants residing in Texas. Applicants should consider the size of the gallery (2,700 square feet) and a few logistical stipulations, including that pieces may not be hung from the ceiling, and that walls may be painted.

When the jury — made up of local artists and others in the industry — announces a winning proposal in March 2023, the artist will be offered a stipend to complete the work. All project costs are the exhibitor’s responsibility, so this stipend is not unlike an advance, except that the project will not continue to generate revenue at the library.

Applications are open now through 11:59 pm on February 28, 2023. Applicants may make their proposals via submittable.com.