Hole In the Wall Renews Lease

Historic music venue gets five more years

In September, the future looked bleak for Hole in the Wall. The 41-year-old live music venue’s lease was expiring and owner Will Tanner held little hope that he and his landlord could come to terms on a rental agreement for the University of Texas campus-area property.

Today, in a sweet twist of fate, the ink is drying on a contract that will keep the Hole in place for another five years.

East Side King’s Paul Qui and Will Tanner (right) at Hole in the Wall in 2012. The former’s business will exit the site come January. (Photo by Shelley Hiam)

Credit community support from – of all places – the real estate industry for the club’s continued survival. After word of its uncertain future got out, Phil Morris of local brokers Retail Solutions offered Tanner help.

“[Morris] said, ‘I’ve been playing at that bar for well over a decade and I want to help,’” recounts Tanner. “But I was concerned, because the problem was money. I couldn’t afford to pay his commission. So he, David Simmonds, and Robby Eaves from Retail Solutions stepped in and worked my negotiations pro bono.”

The brokerage firm spent two months hammering out a deal with Cencor Realty that satisfied both parties. Tanner confirms that a contract was signed on Wednesday, giving him a five-year lease at 2538 Guadalupe beginning January 1. He declined to specify an exact figure, indicating that it was higher than his current rent of $15,000 monthly, but still manageable.

“[Retail Solutions] deserve tons of credit for saving the Hole in the Wall and I can’t thank them enough,” says Tanner, who wasn’t present for any of the negotiations. “I have to say that Scott Freid at Cencor Realty also came to the table with the intention of getting this done and I appreciate that consideration.”

Tanner has an option to extend the lease after the initial five years, “but it’s a pretty big raise,” he says, “so we’d have to be doing really well to take that option.”

Consider it a long stay of execution for a venue that has served as a welcome mat for Austin musicians since the mid-Seventies and continues to slot brand-new bands amongst its devoted ranks of songwriters, punk bands, and rock & rollers. Moreover, Tanner deserves credit for not giving up on the place when times got tough. Longtime Hole in the Wall family member Paul Minor, commenting on the club’s 40th anniversary last June, stated the importance of steadfast ownership in the Hole’s unlikely four-decade endurance test.

“Each owner instinctively knew that their job was to preserve and protect the tradition of the Hole,” said Minor. “And figure out how to help it survive intact. They each refused in their own way to be the one who let it fail.”

“It feels really good,” reflected Tanner yesterday. “I’m relieved to still be in the fight, but I feel like I got knocked down in the ninth. I still have to fight every day, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

According to him, East Side King has decided to vacate its restaurant from the back of the business when its lease expires in January, due to the rent increase.

“I’m now looking for someone else to take over my kitchen,” he says. “I’m really open-minded as to what it is, but I’m looking for a strong partner who understands how to make the most of being in a densely populated neighborhood. I think someone with a delivery concept to stack on top of the regular concept would be good.”

As for the Hole, Tanner says the plan remains the same.

“We’ll just keep booking great shows, being cool to people, and serving great drinks, and hope that eventually wins over whatever newest things of the month.”

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Hole in the Wall, Will Tanner, Cencor Reality, Retail Solutions, Phil Morris, David Simmonds, Robby Eaves, Scott Freid, Paul Minor, Paul Qui, East Side Kings

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