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Luckie: Austin Permitting Pain for Bar Owners

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Luckie: Austin permitting process a pain for bar owners

Austin Business Journal by Cody Lyon, Staff writer

Date: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 10:18am CST

Cody Lyon
Staff writer – Austin Business Journal
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Matt Luckie is not just another hip bar owner in Austin. He’s a business-savvy entrepreneur. Luckie played a role in transforming the once sleepy Warehouse District into a thriving center of bar and restaurant commerce.

In 2004, the co-founder of Austin hot spots Lucky Lounge, Red Fez and Oslo told the Austin Business Journal that he would invest in the area to get away from Austin’s notorious Sixth Street.

“Everyone was putting money into renovating these old buildings,” Luckie said.

Now in 2012 — in addition to Lavaca Street Bar & Grill, Gibson and Star Bar — Luckie and Star Bar partner Kevin Williamson have teamed up with music legend Ray Benson to open Rattle Inn. He’s also gearing up for the South By Southwest festival with C3 Presents.

We caught up with Luckie who shared his insight on the business side of opening and running bars, sound ordinances and his thoughts on Austin’s permitting process.

ABJ: Now that Rattle Inn is up and rolling, what else are you working on?

Luckie: Currently, I’m not working on any other new projects. As far as C3 Presents, were just getting ready for South by [Southwest].

ABJ: Which means?

Luckie: We’re just booking as many bars as we can. They’ll have me scattered all over town.

ABJ: Tell me a little bit more about the types of parties that are going to be happening at SXSW?

Luckie: Well, Rachel Ray does a big event at Stubb’s, then they do an offsite event for three to four days, and we do all the beverages for them. There are four or five big clients that throw parties throughout [SXSW], and we basically just manage all the beverages for them as well. If Red Bull does an event this year, hopefully we’ll get that one.

ABJ: Over the years it’s been said you changed the face of Austin nightlife. How has your business approach to opening or running a bar changed?

Luckie: As I’ve gotten older, I can’t be there 24 hours a day like I used to be. You just try to manage your personnel better, and your time, as you open locations all over town. I couldn’t do it without my managers.

ABJ: Describe the hours of a bar manager.

Luckie: They work a good 12-hour day — 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. is pretty average. I have one manager who oversees the other managers. Her name is Anggay Tenney. She works probably 80 hours a week. It’s her job to keep ’em all in line.

ABJ: When you decide to open a new venue, explain the most important factors you take into account when shopping for real estate.

Luckie: I think the biggest decisions revolve around [taking advantage of] opportunities. On the Gibson deal, the gentleman who owned the property came to me and wanted to partner up, so we did a joint venture on the bar and the property. On Star Bar, my partner had the lease. We knew each other for years. I don’t normally just go searching, things pop up. There’s always brokers calling you. You’ve just got to sift through what’s good, evaluate the time you have, assess what’s a good opportunity.

ABJ: What about neighborhoods themselves — the ambience, the people who live there. Does the vibe of a place attract you as a bar owner?

Luckie: Definitely. I love the South Lamar area. I think it’s a great area where Gibson is. It’s a growing area, it’s got a great feel to it and big developments are coming there. It wasn’t oversaturated [by bars].

But at Rattle Inn, West Sixth Street was obviously already booming before I got there. But it was still a great opportunity. There are other areas of town I might have wished I had gone to, but I enjoy the ones I have — and sometimes that’s enough.

ABJ: What is the biggest challenge facing the Austin food and beverage industry?

Luckie: Co-existing with a growing downtown. Change is always difficult. People are spending a lot of money to live in condos in the entertainment districts, but the noise of just the crowd alone bothers some people. The sound issue is huge, then there’s traffic and parking.

ABJ: They should try living in New York City for a weekend.

Luckie: Well, in New York, when you come out of bars there are signs that say “please be quiet, respect the neighbors.” Downtown, everyone has to strive to be a better bar or restaurant operator and handle their crowds as best they can, but it’s always tough when there’s alcohol involved.

ABJ: Anything you’d like to add?

Luckie: I’m so happy about Rattle Inn, but if I add anything, the hardest challenge was getting it and any project through the city permitting process. You try to do the right thing, get through the whole process and then things just get tied up. It’s not like anyone is pointing a finger at any one area, but its just a very difficult process. When you’re on a strapped budget, and you’re getting delayed a month here or two months there, that’s a lot of money to be behind, and I think that’s probably the biggest challenge of starting a business and doing construction in the city of Austin. You have so many checks and balances — which we need, we definently need them — but it seems it costs the business owner tens of thousands of dollars every time there’s a mistake made, but there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s probably what gives me the biggest ulcer, just trying to get through that process.

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Written by codylyonreporter

January 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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