The new year will bring new owners to longtime Red River music venue Beerland, but don’t expect big changes. Austin Jukebox, a curator of local music events that has booked quarterly shows into the small club that’s a haven for punk-rock bands and other underground acts, will take over Beerland from founders Randall and Donya Stockton on Jan. 1.
“If I was ever going to get involved with a club, it would be Beerland,” Austin Jukebox’s Richard Lynn said by phone on Monday. Lynn, who runs the Austin indie label Super Secret Records and its handful of offshoot imprints, noted that in addition to the quarterly Jukebox shows, many local acts on his labels have played the club regularly.
Lynn, who said the Stocktons approached him about the club a couple of months ago, plans to outfit Beerland with a new sound system, but otherwise says he doesn’t anticipate big changes in physical layout or operating practices. “I think the Stocktons did a great job,” he said. “We think that we can just kind of build on what was already established.”
Lynn’s partners in the venture are Ray Colgan, who runs Super Secret’s reissue imprint Sonic Surgery; Sam Whitworth, who helps Lynn’s businesses with accounting and other responsibilities; Aaron Blount, who heads up the distribution company Ship Channel; and Steve Pike, who helps run the Super Secret label.
“So much of this music wouldn’t be onstage elsewhere, much less downtown in an entertainment zone,” Blount said of Beerland’s significance in an Austin Jukebox press statement. Colgan added: “The goal now is to preserve that sliver of old Red River as the city rapidly changes, preserve the launching pad of the next breakout act, and preserve the most obvious-named bar in town.”
All five members of the Austin Jukebox team will be involved in running the club along with existing employees, Lynn noted Monday. “Luckily there’s a great staff already in place,” he said. “We don’t have to go in and make a bunch of personnel changes. It’s kind of already set up for us.”
As for the club’s typical $5 cover policy, Lynn says that “we want to maintain that as much as possible. If we have a special show, we might charge more. But I’ve always loved the simple way they do things, charging five dollars and the all of the cover goes to the bands.”
When Austin Jukebox booked underground legends such as Pere Ubu and local heroes Cherubs into the venue, they stuck to the $5 model. “I just like the idea of a cover charge not being an impediment,” Lynn says.
While some minor remodeling might follow the sound-system upgrade, Lynn says he doesn’t expect big changes. “I’ve been telling everybody that I don’t want them to be going, ‘Oh my god, I don’t recognize the place,'” he says, but rather they’ll look for subtle tweaks that make Beerland regulars say, “I just like being here a little more.”
Running a venue downtown, where tales of skyrocketing rents are all too familiar, can be a difficult financial proposition. It helps that Lynn comes from a Texas family with oil money. “I don’t have any illusions of getting rich off of this,” he says. “But I wouldn’t do this if I though we were going to lose a lot of money. I think we can just operate it at break-even, or maybe better.”