AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's Historic Landmark Commission this week voted against historic zoning for three LGBTQ+ bars on Fourth Street, leaving the future of the entertainment district up in the air.
The commission voted unanimously to deny and indefinitely postpone the historic zoning for three locations, which house Coconut Club, Neon Grotto and Oilcan Harry's, the oldest operating LGBTQ+ bar in Austin. That vote was in line with the staff's recommendation on the issue.
“Specifically for this case, indefinite postponement would allow the property to return to the Commission if the project in the application doesn’t align with their conditions without a vote on its designation potential — e.g., deemed to not meet historic designation criteria," a city spokesperson told KVUE. "Conversely, a case cannot come back if an applicant is seeking demolition and the Commission releases the permit.”
With the historic designation denied, the bars could now face demolition as a proposed project for West Fourth and Colorado Streets would have the bars torn down to make room for a mixed-use tower. Demolition plans do not include Rain, another LGBTQ+ bar at 217 W. Fourth St.
The Hanover Company proposed a 400-unit high rise for the address that would feature ground-floor retail, restaurants and bars.
David Ott, who leads Texas developments for The Hanover Company, previously said he wants to maintain the history and culture of the neighborhood with the new development. Ott talked about working with Oilcan Harry's to bring them into the new development and helping the bar figure out a plan for them while construction happens.
Oilcan Harry's has said that supporting the demolition permit for the locations is the best way to keep the bar alive.
Ott also mentioned conversations with Coconut Club and Neon Grotto about potentially moving the bars into a space adjacent to Oilcan Harry's, according to a report by KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman.
Opponents of the demolition also spoke at the commission meeting earlier this week, hoping to preserve the bars at the heart of Austin's LGBTQ+ community.
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