Austin jazz and blues club the Brass House in danger of closing

Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Evgueniy "Gene" Todorov, left, and Jason White, right, dreamed of opening a bar from their Marine outpost in Afghanistan in 2012. They opened the Brass House, a jazz and blues club, in downtown Austin in February 2013, but are now at risking of losing it to rising costs.

Julia Robinson / for American-Statesman. Evgueniy “Gene” Todorov, left, and Jason White, right, dreamed of opening a bar from their Marine outpost in Afghanistan in 2012. They opened the Brass House, a jazz and blues club, in downtown Austin in February 2013, but are now at risking of losing it to rising costs.

The Brass House, a downtown 1940s-inspired speakeasy that serves as one of Austin’s few venues dedicated to jazz and blues, is in danger of closing — its two owners have until Friday to raise $25,000 or risk eviction from the landlord.

“We were hit hard by the slow Austin summer months,” co-owner Jason White wrote on a GoFundMe page raising money for the bar.

So far, the GoFundMe page, which expires with the Friday deadline, has raised nearly $5,000, but the Brass House owners, two Marines whose dream of opening a jazz club kept their spirits up while serving overseas in Afghanistan, are exploring other means for getting the funding, according to a KVUE article. Co-owner Gene Todorov, White said in the article, is doing contract work abroad. Plus, both men are looking for investors.

The Brass House is singing the same tune as other downtown music venues: Austin’s skyrocketing rents are getting too high for their owners to keep up with the costs, so many of these businesses are at risk of shutting down. Red River district club Holy Mountain has already set its last day as Oct. 1.

Just as it will be a blow to Austin’s live music scene to lose that venue, as Austin360 writer Deborah Sengupta Stith wrote earlier this summer, it’ll also sting to say good-bye to the Brass House, one of the few places in town that regularly features live jazz and blues music.

The bar was the vision of Todorov and White after several deployments to war zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They often relied on music, Austin360 writer Nancy Flores noted in this big profile about the two veterans in November 2013, to stay sane.

“In the middle of war, death and destruction, every Marine needs something to help them realize they still have humanity,” White said in Flores’ story.

He and Todorov opened the Brass House in February 2013 and, after seeing early success, expanded it in the next year to include an events space and restaurant — but business lately has been slower than they expected.

“The operating costs were a little more than we calculated and while we tripled our gross sales in just one year, we were hit hard by the slow Austin summer months,” White wrote on the GoFundMe page. (In the KVUE article, he noted that part of the problem was the nonstop rainstorms that hit Austin in May, keeping people out of downtown.)

“My prayer is that someone will step forward and help us keep this dream alive as we fight to save the Brass House,” he wrote.

To help out the Brass House, located at 115 San Jacinto Blvd., visit the GoFundMe page here.


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