Update, Jan. 16: Strange Brew remains closed as of Monday. The planned weekend reopening did not happen, though ownership had told booking agent Kacy Crowley that the venue would be open. A Friday show by Steve Forbert did not happen, though Forbert did play a previously scheduled house concert in the area on Sunday. Some shows have been moved: Barbara Nesbitt’s Saturday CD release event was moved to a house concert venue that night, and Monday’s Anthony da Costa show is happening at new east side venue Lemon Lounge, 908 E. Fifth St.
[Editor’s note: This has been updated with comments from Strange Brew founder Scott Ward.]
Strange Brew, the South Austin coffee house and music venue that has become one of the city’s top rooms for a wide variety of local acts in recent years, was “temporarily closed due to financial issues” on Thursday but will be open this weekend, an employee of the venue confirmed Thursday afternoon.
The club was open Wednesday for its regular weekly appearances by pianist Chris Gage and rock band Wrenfro, both of whom confirmed that their shows went on as scheduled. On Thursday, however, employees arrived to find that the doors to the business were locked.
Thursday’s performance by local group Club Staccato was canceled, but booking agent Kacy Crowley said late Thursday afternoon that Friday’s performance by renowned touring singer-songwriter Steve Forbert was still happening, along with other weekend shows.
United States Bankruptcy Court records for the Western District of Texas show that the business filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2016. Creditors on the bankruptcy documents include institutions such as the Internal Revenue Service and Texas Workforce Commission, as well as a handful of artists who have performed at the venue.
In December, Strange Brew founder Scott Ward announced on Facebook that he was leaving the business but would remain a partial owner. The bankruptcy documents list co-owner E. Shane Widner as the authorized representative of the business.
Ward said Thursday evening that although he left the business last month, he was aware of the financial issues and the bankruptcy filing. A number of factors were involved, he said, including recent efforts to take over an ajdacent tobacco shop and dining space (the former Bakehouse restaurant), as well the operation of a coffee shop at Key Bar on West Sixth Street.
The tobacco shop has since been shut down, and Strange Brew no longer is running the Key Bar coffee space. Plans for the Bakehouse space, announced in 2014, have yet to come to fruition.
Ward said he’s optimistic that the venue will continue to operate, noting that its fate may be up to a handful of investors who are stakeholders in the business. “The investors basically said that they would come in and save the business, under certain conditions,” Ward said, though he acknowledged that the situation “is definitely fluid right now.”
Strange Brew opened in 2010 as a coffee shop and expanded to include live music in 2012. The spacious multi-room coffee shop on its north half is adjoined by a seated music room with a capacity of 100-200 on its south side. Its importance to the local music community stems partly from the quantity of events it presents; most days, Strange Brew presents anywhere from two to four separately ticketed shows.
It also has gained a reputation for quality, both in the talent of the performers and the clarity of its sound system. Though its bread and butter is local music, Strange Brew has increasingly become a touring stop for national acts as well. The past year saw touring stops by artists ranging from Jim Lauderdale to BJ Barham to the Glenn Miller Orchestra.