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Before the rise of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders and the temporary closure of businesses across the state, downtown Austin’s small storefront businesses and nightlife economy was thriving. Storefront businesses operating in downtown enjoyed access to a growing daytime and nighttime population as the number of occupied residential units, office space and hotel rooms continued to expand annually.

This growing and increasingly diverse consumer base has supported the evolution of downtown’s unique districts. The 700+ businesses within these districts generally can be divided into four categories: drinks & entertainment, food places, retail goods, and retail services. In support of these businesses, the Downtown Austin Alliance developed the Roadmap to Recovery, a list of short-term strategies and long-term goals, to address the pandemic’s impact on downtown. As we monitor downtown’s recovery, this report will reflect on past conditions as well as highlight the results of our most recent inventory of downtown storefront businesses.

Key Findings

  • The number of businesses operating downtown has increased by 64 since our previous count in February 2021.
  • At least 97 businesses have permanently closed their downtown locations since the pandemic began.
  • Pedestrian activity downtown in August 2021 averaged 81% of 2017 to 2019 levels.
  • Hotel occupancy has remained above 50% since March 2021, with a concentration of activity on weekends.
  • Businesses that rely on downtown employees coming to their offices continue to struggle, as most of their customer base has not returned consistently.
  • Districts that rely heavily on live music — the East 6th Street entertainment district and the Red River Cultural District — have the lowest operating rate, the highest permanent closure rate and lagging alcohol sales and weekly visits when compared to other entertainment districts.
  • Increased investment in downtown is a positive sign, as evidenced by the opening of 36 new storefront businesses since February 2020.

Click here to download a PDF of the report.

Roadmap to Recovery

The Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience envisions a better, more resilient downtown by tackling challenges head on while laying out transformative plans including a new neighborhood with parks, public spaces and transit access on Lady Bird Lake.

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COVID-19 Economic Impact

While the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic not yet known, we have seen significant economic impacts on our city and our downtown. With a focus on response and recovery, we actively measured and monitored the effects of the pandemic on downtown Austin.

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Research

Our team conducts primary research on downtown-related issues and compiles and analyzes third-party research to make data-driven decisions as we work together to shape our future.

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What We Do

Our dedicated team created the downtown that Austin's future generations deserve through special projects, daily programs and collaborations that enable us to bolster the things that work, change the things that don’t and serve our membership.

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