Former Sidewinder Space Now Open As After-Hours Club The Cut
Victory Grill owner and partners hope to fix long-idle outdoor stage
By Chad Swiatecki,
11:25AM, Fri. Jan. 13, 2023
A familiar spot in the Red River Cultural District is now home to a rare kind of Austin nightlife, with the Cut bringing members-only, after-hours DJ parties to 715 Red River Street.
The club location, long known as Red Eyed Fly and later Sidewinder, closed in 2018 due to safety concerns over the effects of erosion on its outdoor stage. Still unable to use the outdoor stage, the Cut debuted last week with a capacity of 150. Officially open to members only, the club offers a free one-year membership online at thecutaustin.com.
Without a liquor license, the business will operate in a wholly different way from those surrounding it and will make much of its revenue from ticket sales, with events generally running from 2-6 am. Tickets for this weekend’s events start at $40.
Co-owners Miguel Harlaque, Bruce Williams, and Glenn Williams began looking for a permanent nightlife location because Harlaque, a longtime mechanical engineer, threw after-hours parties in his home for service industry friends. During the pandemic, Harlaque started hosting pop-up events at a space on 4th & Chicon Street and later at the Eastside’s historic Victory Grill, which Glenn Williams owns.
Harlaque says the after-hours model could take hold as Austin draws more people from other major cities.
“We're at a point where a lot of people are coming [to Austin] from around the United States, where places close a little later than 2am,” says Harlaque. “Some people really want to just keep going, and we’re building this brand of things happening after 2am – since some people will literally party from two to six, like they will from nine to two.”
New York’s DJ Sabo plays the Cut for an after-hours party following his show at the Summit nightclub on Jan. 27, with ticketholders from that event getting free admission. Harlaque hopes to provide an intimate room where well-known international DJs can visit while playing other shows in Texas or the southwestern U.S.
Prior to the club’s brief stint as cocktail bar Birdie Num Nums, Sidewinder closed in 2018 after the fire marshal decreased capacity of the back patio from 239 to 49 a week before South by Southwest. Because of the erosion issues near Waller Creek, the Cut is currently limited to only using the small indoor area for events. By working with property owner Jimmy Nassour and relevant state and local planning authorities, Harlaque and partners hope to tear down and rebuild the outdoor stage to eventually host events with hundreds of attendees.
“A few prominent venues around the United States have their intimate feel, and they're not super huge, but they can still garner a good crowd of people and collective of major international talent that want to come play, because of word of mouth,” says Harlaque.
Glenn Williams’ involvement means Victory Grill will occasionally serve as a satellite site of sorts, hosting DJs promoted by the group during traditional nightclub hours before they move to the Cut for after-hours booking. In emails from late last year to staff of Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, residents near Victory Grill complained of loud music disturbing them late into the evening. Harlaque says he hopes improved communication with Eastside residents regarding noise complaints will allow the events to continue.
“It's one of those things where one neighbor gets pretty upset and everybody gets pretty upset, but it's gotten a lot better,” says Harlaque. “Basically you just keep the noise down, keep everybody happy – or at least tell people to prepare them that you're going to be operating.”
Austin DJ Marcus Shaw – who spins house, indie dance, and darkwave under the stage name Lefty – says he hopes Harlaque and partners will push young, talented DJs as well as international stars.
“The way that they’ve set it up looks pretty intimate with the one confined room,” says Shaw. “I trust them. I really like what they did at Victory Grill as a popup kind thing, to now putting real time, effort, and work into [the Cut] to remodel and put some love into the place. You can go there and have an experience. It’s cool to see they have the heart for it.”