Lease is up in March
By Chase Hoffberger,
4:50PM, Mon. Feb. 24, 2014
Another cherished listening room has had its last cup of coffee. Today, shortly after noon, a manager for Flipnotics confirmed that the niche venue has plans to close March 24.
“The short answer is that the owner of Flipnotics [Naji Abi-Habib] and the landlord that we’re leasing the property from can’t come to an agreement right now,” offered Drew Jerdan, who’s managed the coffee shop and music venue since 2011. “It’s really just a matter of this being a business decision on the part of the landlord, as far as I understand.”
That information was news to Laura Joseph, who owns the building at 1601 Barton Springs Road.
“I haven’t spoken to Naji since right after Christmas,” she said. “[He’s] had real mixed emotions about the business. He has another job, a full-time job. He’s been back and forth about it.”
An Internet search indicates that Abi-Habib works at a pre-owned Infiniti dealership on Burnet Road. Earlier today, Jerdan called the Chronicle from the dealership to confirm Flipnotics’ closing. In doing so, he added that Abi-Habib would not be available for comment.
Meanwhile, Joseph added that Flipnotics recently sprung a leak, which put roughly a foot of water in the first floor, a space once occupied by Yum Yum Frozen Yogurt and Flips’ Vintage Clothing.
“I’m hoping to get the damage fixed and keep on keeping on,” she said. “I’m not sure how extensive the damage is, but I’m going to try to get some professionals in this afternoon.”
She said she wouldn’t hold Abi-Habib responsible for any costs incurred from the flooding, though that consideration was made without the knowledge that her tenant planned to discontinue his lease. The venue, catering to coffee drinkers, music lovers, and a colorful assortment of homeless squatters since brothers Mark and Marty Kamburis opened the club in 1992, has had a long but largely undervalued history of respected residencies, including bluegrass Mondays, fiddler Erik Hokkanen on Tuesdays, and Wild Bill on Friday nights.
The venue’s seen its share of troubles over the years, filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Nov. 2009 after the Kamburis brothers fell $1.8 million in debt, with less than $200 in assets. The following year, the Austin Business Journal reported Flipnotics had lost $260,600 since 2007. A loyal customer, Paul Long, bought the coffee shop after the Kamburis brothers’ filing, though he didn’t hold ownership for long, and sold it to Abi-Habib.
Hokkanen, who couldn’t recall the exact date he began his residency but estimates it was right around the time Flipnotics opened, equated his time there to that of a city reader checking in at a library: “It was part of my Austin living,” he said. “I had my card and played.”
He says his inspiration for the long-running residency came from guitarist Les Paul, who played more than 35 years of residencies at New York City’s Fat Tuesday’s and Iridium jazz clubs.
“Players play,” said Hokkanen. “If I’m living locally, I’m supposed to play. That was my place to play.”
When informed that place may change, Hokkanen chuckled and asked if I could offer any suggestions for new residencies.
[Update: Mark Kamburis emailed to explain a factual error in our reporting, writing that it wasn’t Flipnotics that filed for bankruptcy in Nov. 2009 but rather Flip’s Ship of Caffeine, a company owned by Kamburis and his brother – as well as a few others. FSoC sold Flipnotics to Paul Long in April 2009. He added that the numbers pertaining to assets and debts the Austin Business Journal reported in 2009 were inaccurate, but did not specify the degree to which they differed.]