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HOLE IN THE WALL

HOLE IN THE WALL. The Austin nightclub Hole in the Wall is located at 2538 Guadalupe Street directly across from the University of Texas. This live music venue has hosted an eclectic list of local and national performers over the past four decades, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Shawn Colvin, Fastball, and the Texas Tornados.

Billie Cugini and her son, Doug, opened the Hole in the Wall on June 15, 1974, in a storefront in which a dry cleaner had previously been located. The Cuginis already owned some truck stops in town, so they decided to open a bar with a casual atmosphere near campus which would attract not only students but also local hippies, street musicians, and truckers delivering goods to the university.

The club’s walls are covered with dusty and faded sports memorabilia, beer signs, and caricature drawings of some of the bar’s 300 regular customers. There is a shuffleboard and a small stage on one side of the room, a bar on the other, and a few tables in between. A separate back section houses pool tables, video games, and a jukebox. The Hole in the Wall’s capacity is around 200 people or less. According to Cugini, the club was never intended to be a live music venue. However, since it quickly became a popular hangout for local musicians, he decided to allow some of them to perform there.

Over the years, some 10,000 musicians have played at the Hole in the Wall, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith, Timbuk 3, Fastball, the Bizarros, Reverend Horton Heat, Doug Sahm, Lucinda Williams, the Texas Tornados, and numerous other roots, punk, rock, and country singers. Because of its location directly across the street from the university’s television and radio studios, some national performers, including Emmylou Harris, have stopped by after a taping of the PBS series Austin City Limits, in order to perform on the Hole in the Wall’s cozy stage.

Debbie Rombach, a former customer who later became a waitress and eventually bar manager, has been largely responsible for the eclectic mix of music heard at the Hole in the Wall since its opening. In 1998 Rombach purchased the bar from Doug Cugini. However, in 2002 the owner of the building put it on the market for $975,000. Despite organizing several successful fundraising events, the bar could not raise enough money and had to close its doors on June 30, 2002. In 2003 the Hole in the Wall reopened. To the delight of most patrons, James Cashiola and Clay McLaughlin, owners of the local chain, Austin’s Pizza, bought the establishment with the intention of maintaining its décor and live music offerings. In 2005 they sold the club to J. D. Torian, who subsequently sold it to Will Tanner in 2008.

In 2014 the Hole in the Wall, which celebrated its fortieth anniversary, remained a very popular live music venue for college students and others alike. Many musicians, some of whom went on to national prominence, played the venue. By providing a setting in which an eclectic array of artists have been able to perform in front of an equally eclectic audience, the Hole in the Wall was a major contributor to Austin’s unique and dynamic music scene for more than forty years. By the end of 2015, however, the Hole in the Wall was in danger of closing because of rising rent costs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American–Statesman, June 17, 1993; June 11, 1998; June 18, 2014. Austin Chronicle, May 17, July 19, 2002. Kevin Curtin, “Hole in the Wall in Danger of Closing,” Austin Chronicle, September 11, 2015 (http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/music/2015-09-11/hole-in-the-wall-in-danger-of-closing/), accessed November 4, 2015. Daily Texan, March 31, 1999; April 17, 2003; June 10, 2004. Rob Heidrick, “Live from Austin,” Tribeza, No. 69, April 2007. The Hole in the Wall (http://www.holeinthewallaustin.com), accessed August 5, 2009.Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.  

Erinn Park

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Handbook of Texas Online, Erinn Park, "Hole In the Wall," accessed October 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xdh01.

Uploaded on April 3, 2015. Modified on November 4, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.