Pandemic-Shuttered North Door to Reopen Next to Brew & Brew
Eastside arts and music venue resumes in smaller space, a block from former home
By Chad Swiatecki, Fri., Sept. 16, 2022
The North Door will return as an events, music, and creative space later this month, albeit in a smaller footprint relative to its longtime sound studio space at Fifth Street and Brushy.
Owner Mark Bradford confirmed to the Chronicle that he's working to reopen the business in a retail space roughly one block east of its former location, which now operates as the Parish live music venue. Bradford decided to close the 300-capacity venue in September of 2020, after being closed for nearly six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new space at 908 E. Fifth, next to Wright Bros. Brew & Brew, will be focused around live storytelling/featured speaker events such as Nerd Nite, BedPost Confessions, and Astronomy on Tap that represented some of North Door's most popular bookings through the years. Any music programming will be more low-key than the full productions that took place on the former venue's semicircle stage.
"We want to have music programming. It just wouldn't be larger acts – more smaller acts, maybe even more DJ-oriented sets for music," he said. "It's been a long road back, but we want to continue to have a nice space for Austin to have the monthly [events] we've loved over the years. I wanted to bring them back."
That road was made even longer for Bradford by the cancer diagnosis he received just prior to the pandemic, which resulted in the removal of one of his kidneys. Now recovered and mostly free of medical worries ("My doctors remind me that you're never all the way out of the woods"), Bradford jokes he's glad to be healthy enough to handle cartloads of beer and other labor-intensive duties that come with operating an event space.
He said the room, which previously featured live music as the Lemon Lounge listening room and the Punctum Records Studium record store before that, will be arranged cabaret style. The space will offer beverages and a small menu of prepared foods from longtime partner Pueblo Viejo, with mostly afternoon and evening hours available for gatherings that support the local creative community. Longtime North Door-affiliated audio engineer Chris Payeur is designing a new digital sound system, which Bradford said should create favorable audio conditions for shows. Bradford also plans to host shows featuring students from neighboring business Eastside Music School, envisioned as another regular event.
While working to open the new business in coming weeks, Bradford also oversees beverage service at the Field of Lights attraction at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. That booking, via C3 Presents, runs into the winter and has helped provide the financial stability to support the opening of the new North Door. More help came from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant funding Bradford received from the federal government as part of pandemic relief efforts for music venues.
With Austin bookers Resound and Heard Presents partnered in running the new Parish in the former North Door space, Bradford said he's grateful to be back in East Austin's entertainment mix.
"Over the years, I've gotten to personally experience lots of great shows, South By official and unofficial, almost everything.," he said. "I'm continuing to live by a mantra: 'Get knocked down seven times, stand up eight.' I want to keep standing up and doing what I like to do: having a nice safe space for the LGBTQ community to have drag shows and all the wonderful things that the North Door is about, which is being welcome to everybody."