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The $975,000 Question: The future, sans shades, of the Hole in the Wall

BY DAN OKO May 17, 2000

The Hole in the Wall has always been here and isn't going anywhere. -- Christopher Hess, The Austin Chronicle Live Music Guide, 1999

It's like a time warp in here. -- Beth Richard onstage at the Hole last Wednesday

It's a scene that could've taken place here anytime over the past three decades: In the front room of the Hole in the Wall, on a stage that's hosted more Austin music legends than almost any club in town -- performers such as Doug Sahm & the Texas Tornadoes, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Timbuk 3, Fastball, and too many others to mention -- an up-and-coming local band whose sound straddles rock, pop, and country sets up.

Today that band is Quatropaw, and as friends and fans file in, the late-afternoon sunlight streams in the front window through the garish painted letters advertising Happy Hour specials. At the bar, a few neighborhood regulars sip beers and watch a ball game on the TV; it's finals week across the street at the University of Texas, but the crowd appears to be entirely devoid of college students. Nonetheless, when the music kicks in, heads turn and the years begin to melt away.

Since November, Knight Real Estate has had a for-sale sign hanging on the front of the building. The asking price? Nearly $1 million. Meanwhile, come the end of June, the Hole in the Wall will lose its lease, a six-month deal that was signed back in January when it became apparent that buyers weren't exactly lining up to purchase the run-down building that houses this Austin institution. Owner Debbie Rombach says she would love to buy the building and keep the bar intact, but she just doesn't have the money.

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