SXSW event planners scrambled as city permitting shut down
Chad Swiatecki |Staff Writer| – Austin Business Journal
When a major brand contacted Mary Baird-Wilcock, CSEP on Jan. 30 to have her events company put together an outdoor music showcase during South By Southwest, her instructions to them were simple: Get on an airplane immediately.
The urgency came about because Baird-Wilcock, CSEP, owner of The Simplifiers, knew that the city of Austin was days away from closing the application process for special use permits during SXSW. That meant that if the client didn’t have the space signed for and an application in by the beginning of this week, they’d likely be out of luck.
“We got them into the permit office on Friday (Jan. 31) for a parking lot in the warehouse district, so thankfully we got everything signed for and in on time,” she said. “We totally understand why the city has had to say ‘we’re overloaded’ because safety one of the most important elements for our events and you have to have the time to inform the city of what you’ll be doing so they can plan. Closing things off a month ahead of time does make business a bit harder.”
Baird-Wilcock, CSEP and other events organizers in Austin said they’re still getting calls from major corporations looking to throw lavish events during the 10 days of SXSW from early to mid-March.
Microsoft, which turned to The Simplifiers last year for a major promotion with only 28 days notice, still hasn’t put its plans together for 2014. Baird-Wilcock said that will almost certainly mean scaling back the size of their event because they’ll have to use venues that already have permits for large gatherings and music, and large spaces such as Brazos Hall and Austin Music Hall have been booked since last year.
“At this point the answer is to look to venues toward the south because most places are being gobbled up at this point, though there is still availability at some places like Rio and Russian House,” she said. “Because of that we tell them maybe you need to think smaller and do something more focused on your VIPs and C-level clients at a smaller place rather than something larger for the general populace.”
Source: Austin Business Journal