UT Announces KUT/Cactus Deal

NPR station takes over music, Texas Union keeps bar

UT Announces KUT/Cactus Deal

"Welcome to KUT," Vice-President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez joked. To the surprise of few, the Texas Union announced this afternoon that it will entering a deal with KUT-FM, Austin's NPR affiliate, to keep the Cactus Cafe open.

Gonzalez made the announcement in front of a small group of invited media (representatives of both the Student Friends of the Cactus Cafe and the Friends of the Cactus Cafe were left in the hallway, and it took some negotiation and eventually the intervention of Vice-President of Public Affairs Don Hale to get student media in the room.) Along with KUT programming director Hawk Mendenhall and general manager Stewart Vanderwilt, he laid out the broad outline of the plan.

So what's on the table?

The quick breakdown: The Texas Union will still maintain operations of the bar both day and night. KUT will take over the music side, booking around 200 nights year round. After the massive amount of student input, Gonzalez said the aim was for the cafe "to operate as close to its previous function as possible." The new deal takes effect in August but, he added, "the precise evening has not been determined yet."

The upside for the Texas Union: Gonzalez called it "a perfect match, because [KUT has] an organization that has deep relations with the music industry and songwriters, and knows how to run a sound business, and has wonderful support within the community for its already ongoing operations." Vanderwilt added, "We're the per capita most listened to public radio station in the country, currently the number one station in Austin [and] we're constantly in touch with how this musical community is evolving."

The upside for KUT: Mendenhall said, "Our music team is really excited about being able to include live performances from the Cactus in what we do."

The finances: Possibly, and surprisingly, the area with the least clarity. Since there is no contract or even seemingly a letter on intent, this will take a lot of work. While Vanderwilt pointed out that, as two UT agencies, "We're all in the same family," it's unlikely that UT's legal department will not ask for something more detailed or binding.

The profits: The broad outline is that the two halves of the business will remain at some level separate. The union will keep revenues from the bar, and KUT will keep the revenue from the marketing side. Where the answers got hazy was on areas like shared areas like merchandising.

The losses: Vanderwilt put emphasis on fitting the venue into the station's traditional business model, which has always involved fundraising drives. However, Gonzalez said bluntly that the union will not subsidize the bar operations with student fees. As for what happens if the bar loses money but the music makes a profit (or vice versa), that's yet to be fully resolved.

The employees: The union will be hiring staff, just not necessarily the old staff. Gonzalez said that the current staff have all been offered alternative employment, but will be free to apply when the cafe fills these newly (re)created vacancies. Vanderwilt added that KUT will create a new post, a full time management position, to run its musical operations at the cafe. Speculation is already rife about whether current manager Griff Luneburg (the one employee not offered a permanent contract by the union) will be in contention.

What about expanding student involvement? Gonzalez said that part one of that process involves extending and changing the bands booked "to better match [students'] flavor of entertainment." As for actual roles in day-to-day operations, internships, etc, etc etc, Gonzalez called this "absolutely pivotal," but there are no solid plans at this point, just a lot of options that haven't been ruled out or in.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Cactus Cafe
Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?
Longhorns on Grande, Cactus on Longhorns?
As Grande takes the Longhorn Network, KUT shoots a music pilot

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 3, 2011

I  Am the Exceptional Drought
I Am the Exceptional Drought
Ray Bonneville quenches ‘Bad Man's Blood’ at the Cactus Cafe

Jim Caligiuri, Aug. 3, 2011

More UT
Baked Cookies and Racism at UT
Baked Cookies and Racism at UT
Young Conservatives get national headlines, local contempt

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 27, 2016

Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Do Texas concealed handgun rules break the Second Amendment?

Richard Whittaker, July 7, 2016

More by Richard Whittaker
Bog Bodies, Blood Pulling, and Muppets: Making the Monster of <i>Boys From County Hell</i>
Bog Bodies, Blood Pulling, and Muppets: Making the Monster of Boys From County Hell
How Chris Baugh raised the evil of Irish vampire

May 7, 2021

AFS Cinema Will Reopen This Summer With The Next Picture Show
AFS Cinema Will Reopen This Summer With The Next Picture Show
Fundraiser aims for $150,000 to get us all back to the movies

May 6, 2021


Cactus Cafe, UT, KUT, Hawk Mendenhall, Stewart Vanderwilt, Juan Gonzalez

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle