When ATX Brands owner, Doug Guller, put Sixth Street club the Parish up for sale on online auction site eBay, many in the Austin music scene worried it was the death knell for another live music venue. On Thursday, local music fans were given a solid reason to breathe easier.
Stephen Sternschein, owner of Red River Cultural District club Empire Garage and Control Room, has confirmed that his company Heard Presents, in partnership with Simple Tone Ventures, will take over the club after participating in the auction.
In the four years since Sternschein opened Empire in a remodeled auto shop, he has grown the space into a vibrant live music venue with a diverse slate of bookings that cover everything from hip-hop and electronic music to rock ‘n’ roll. Last month, a jury of music critics, industry insiders and super fans selected the club as a finalist in the Venue of the Year category of the inaugural Austin360 Awards.
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The Parish, with its solid acoustics and warm atmosphere, was once lauded as one of Austin’s finest midsize venues. In recent years, the club slipped into the shadows with inconsistent bookings and no coherent marketing strategy.
The biggest fear of many local music enthusiasts was that the club would become a vanity project for a big money investor with no real world understanding of the challenges of running a club in Austin. Instead, it’s an expansion of operations from a successful local player.
“It was important to me and I think to everyone in our community with all of the concern over iconic Austin creative spaces disappearing in the face of developmental pressures, that the Parish end up in the hands of an experienced operator committed to supporting local music. The best way to ensure that happened was to do it ourselves,” Sternschein said in a press release about the sale.
Sternschein’s partner in the venture, Alex Saunders of Simple Tone Ventures, manages boutique venues on the east and west coasts.
Peter Blackstock contributed to this report.