Austin’s Parish to Be Sold on Ebay

A club in the heart of Austin, Texas’ well-known Sixth Street Entertainment District is being put up for sale to literally the highest bidder.

The Parish Austin
– The Parish Austin

Ownership of The Parish, a 425-capacity room regarded as having some of the best acoustics and sound engineering in the live music hotbed, will be available for bid on eBay beginning Dec. 1 and open until Dec. 10.

The transaction is not for the real estate property that contains The Parish but will give the winner the club business, its current bookings, the chance to renew the company’s liquor license, all bar and sound equipment and supplies and a 12-year lease with the option for two five-year renewals.

ATX Brands has owned the business for eight years, and owner Doug Guller said he decided in early 2017 to sell his three music venues so he could focus on growing his restaurant brands Bikini’s and Happy Chicks. In July, Guller sold the historic 19th century Scoot Inn outdoor music venue to Austin-based festival promoter C3 Presents and he also auctioned off the Schroeder Hall in Goliad, Texas, in April.

“This is the last of our pure music venues to go, and I’m hoping to get it in the hands of a live music fan who can take it to the next level,” Guller told Venues Today. “The great thing about The Parish is it’s an ongoing venue business with lots of success. All the shows transfer over to the new owner, so whoever wins the auction basically gets a nice shiny car and all they have to do is keep it running between the lines.”

While the online auction process is a novel and somewhat unusual method of selling a business, Guller said he wanted to circumvent the traditional professional networks and alliances that tend to form in a business community, with the hope of bringing someone new into the circle of Austin club owners.

“I wanted to cast a wide net, and when things like properties come up for sale, the broker usually just sends the info out to their email list and that’s it,” he said. “Properties trade very well with brokers, but when it comes to selling an entire business, there’s not really a set formula or process for how to get it done.”

Guller said there is an undisclosed minimum bid for the business and didn’t give an estimate or desired final price he’s seeking.

As an upstairs club on a stretch where street level foot traffic generates the bulk of the business in dozens of bars and nightclubs, The Parish has for years been something of an in-between venue among the approximately four dozen venues that use original live music as their main attraction to bring customers in the door.

While major acts such as Pete Townshend, Thom Yorke and Perry Farrell have played the intimate brick and wood-paneled room in recent years, its calendar typically features only a half dozen national or local bookings per month, with national tour bookings handled mostly by C3 Presents.

According to the Texas comptroller’s office, through the first half of 2017 The Parish averaged roughly $15,000 in monthly liquor sales, which are the main revenue driver for most music venues. That figure puts the venue far behind comparable downtown Austin rooms such as the Mohawk or Empire Control Room, which typically have far more active calendars and can generate more than $200,000 per month in liquor sales.

Live music stakeholders in Austin are planning to watch the auction closely. The sale comes as multiple long-running venues in the downtown’s two entertainment districts are facing double-digit percentage rent increases because of development pressure.

Rebecca Reynolds, president of the Austin’s chapter of the Music Venue Alliance, said she has concerns about whether the winning bidder will have the experience, skills and contacts needed to run a successful live music venue.

“Those of us with much interest in the health of this venue want to see it go to a capable owner who will nurture it and make it the best venue possible,” she said. “I don’t know if there will be any consideration made, if from among the top bidders the winner will be the one that has the best abilities, but I believe it is Doug’s goal to get it into the hands of someone who’s going to be a good member of the music community.”

Reynolds said The Parish’s reputation as one of the most fan and artist friendly clubs in Austin should make it an attractive purchase.

“It’s a beautiful space, and whoever inherits it gets a huge asset,” she said. “We might end up with someone from a different part of the state or different part of the country, and I hope that it’s someone with good sense about how to run a music venue.”