6th Street businesses pummeled by COVID-19 respond to Austin shooting

Crowds began returning to Sixth Street only recently, a ray of economic hope for the downtown restaurants, bars and performance venues beaten down and left teetering financially over the past 15 months by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Saturday’s mass shooting — in which at least 14 people were wounded, two critically, in the early hours of the morning — is now bringing national notoriety to one of Austin’s most well-known entertainment districts, dealing a fresh blow to businesses in the area just as they were trying to regain their footing.

“For 35 years I’ve been on Sixth Street, and I’ve never heard of anything like this for all the time I’ve been here,” said Bob Woody, who operates 20 bars on Sixth Street. “Now this is the story people all around the world are hearing.”

More:Austin police arrest one of two suspects involved in downtown shooting that left 14 injured

It remains to be seen whether the shooting — and the news coverage of it — will have any ripple effects on Austin’s hospitality industry, which was pummeled during the pandemic. 

People walk down Sixth Street in Austin on Saturday morning, hours after 14 people were injured during a shooting in the well-known entertainment district. Business owners say they are concerned about the potential impact the incident could have on Sixth Street's reputation and on Austin's tourism industry.

The region’s leisure and hospitality sector shed more than 60,000 jobs in the initial weeks of the pandemic. With only about half having returned since then, the sector accounts for the majority of the Austin area’s continued pandemic-related job losses.

‘Sixth Street is our crown jewel’

Woody, whose bars include downtown hot spots Buford’s, Blind Pig Pub and Shakespeare’s Pub, believes the shooting will damage the Sixth Street district. In addition to the traditionally local younger crowd, Woody says Sixth Street also relies on tourists, conventioneers and international travelers.

Read More: 6th Street businesses pummeled by COVID-19 respond to Austin shooting

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