The catastrophic economic impact of the coronavirus is already being felt in Austin, Texas
All over the United States, major events are being canceled because of coronavirus concerns — from political rallies to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Texas to the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia. One of the most publicized cancelations came in Austin, Texas, where Mayor Steve Adler decided to cancel the famous South by Southwest convention. The event would have started this Friday, March 13 and continued through March 22 — and reporters Elizabeth Findell, Rebecca Elliott and Russell Gold discuss the financial impact of the cancelation in an article for the Wall Street Journal.
In Austin, South by Southwest is a huge moneymaker. Companies from all over the world head to Austin for the annual event, which is known as a music-related gathering but also features everyone from politicians to tech companies. 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Rep. Adam Schiff (the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee) were scheduled to speak this year.
“Events such as South by Southwest help the cultural economy survive,” the WSJ reporters explain. “From event promoters to bartenders dreaming of overflowing tip jars to pay the rent, many people pin their hopes on the festival. Now, they are drafting contingency plans.”
Canceling South by Southwest 2020, although a matter of public safety, certainly wasn’t an easy decision for Adler. The Austin mayor lamented, “This is kind of like a tornado hitting our city and taking out some homes and businesses.”
One of the Austin residents who is taking a big financial hit from the cancelation is Cassie Shankman, a DJ and piano teacher. Shankman, the WSJ reporters explain, “had lined up” an abundance of gigs during South by Southwest and “expected to bank more than $8000.”
Another Austin resident, Jason McNeely, is taking a financial hit as well. The WSJ reporters note that McNeely, who co-owns the concert space Barracuda, was planning to host hundreds of musicians during South by Southwest.
McNeely told WSJ, “We don’t know what we’re supposed to do. We’ve all been one catastrophe away from going bankrupt for a while. This is it.”
Austin residents Luis Gramejo and Hans Schrei, who own the cookie company Wunderkeks, had enough cookie dough to make 25,000 cookies that they planned to sell at South by Southwest. And after the event was canceled, they advertised a “We Are So Screwed Pack.” Upon learning about their situation, the WSJ article notes, actress Busy Phillips stepped in and “helped their Twitter feed so viral.” And according to WSJ, Gramejo and Schrei had sold all but 7500 of the cookies they planned to sell at South by Southwest.