Austin’s entertainment scene gets out the vote

Regina Estrada has a simple message that she loves passionately: “Eat tacos and vote.”

The owner and manager of Joe’s Bakery & Cafe, The popular East Austin restaurant with decades of roots says it tries to do something with every election to cast the vote. For the past eight years, Joe’s has given a free taco to anyone who shows their “I Voted” or “Yo Voté” sticker after they have voted. But due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, the restaurant’s dining room is closed and only a take-out service is offered. Instead, you will receive a 10% discount on your bill for the next week with a voting sticker.

“We wanted to do something that we were comfortable with and that was in line with the message we were spreading,” says Estrada.

The early voting in Texas began on October 13th and will last until October 30th. Election day is of course November 3rd. With Austinites popping up to vote in one of the most momentous elections in American history, Joe’s Bakery isn’t the only local food or entertainment company dipping its toes in the civic arena. The message is the same across the board. Give or take a taco: go vote and we’ll give you a little something extra to go with that patriotic pride.

“MORE:Travis County Early Voting: This is where you can cast your vote

Voter turnout is important to Estrada. She remembers how her mother took her to the polling station and now she has her own daughters teaching about the democratic process. Latino voters have historically had lower voter turnout rates than other populations – although they have risen in recent years – and Estrada knows from experience that some in her community do not feel motivated to exercise their rights. She’s heard it from her staff, she’s heard it from her customers, she’s heard it from her East Austin neighbors: a feeling that their voices don’t matter, especially as members of a minority group.

“That’s not true. Your voice counts. Your voice is important,” she says.

So Estrada is doing anything to gather information about elections, anything that could pique a person’s interest and persuade them to vote. She says she even became a volunteer assistant registrar. Anything helps, she says, and that’s why Joe’s Bakery usually offers a yummy incentive for those red, white, and blue stickers.

“I’ve found that as a pillar of the community, the business itself, our customers have more to do with what we say and really turn to us to guide them,” says Estrada. “If I can give them this information and help them convey this knowledge. This is important. Knowledge is power.”

Meanwhile at Home slice pizzaUntil November 3, people can exchange their voting sticker on the windows of the restaurant’s two locations, South Congress Avenue and North Loop Boulevard, for a free piece. Customers will have to hand in their sticker to redeem the offer, but they will find a window to stick it on. Home Slice Pizza partner Jeff Mettler thinks this is a great selfie opportunity. You’ll also get a home slice sticker that says they voted just to let the world know.

The idea of ​​giving away a free piece came from an employee in June, says Mettler. It was one of the few ideas how the stores can support social justice and community engagement. Home Slice has already done voter registration drives, Mettler said, but this is the first benefit for customers who vote.

“I think the most important thing for us is to increase the percentage of people who exercise their right to vote,” he says. “In 2016 the numbers speak for themselves.”

There are also incentives for Home Slice employees that are worth a little more than a piece of pepperoni cake. Employees receive three hours of wages after providing evidence that they have voted, and the restaurant also offers up to eight hours of paid time off for employees who volunteer in the election process, such as B. by taking the polls.

“MORE:2020 Statesman Voters Guide

Another popular Austin brand is hoping to make voting a little easier for their employees. JuiceLand plans to close all 33 stores in Texas early election day at 1:30 p.m. instead of 9:00 p.m.

“It is a gesture to let our employees and customers know that it is important to make time and space for important things,” said Matt Shook, founder of JuiceLand. “A lot of people have trouble finding the time when it comes to the wire.”

The company has never done anything like this before, but Shook says it’s just a sign of the times. He believes that it is easy for people to lose confidence in the democratic process or to feel separate from it.

“Different people don’t think voting is important for a variety of reasons,” says Shook. “And even in this case we encourage the people, the inheritance (of those who) fought for the right to vote for those who couldn’t.”

Closing stores early to encourage people to vote is Shook’s way of fertilizing the roots of voter engagement, as he puts it.

“I have heard from a lot of employees that they will be voting for the first time this year,” he says.

Those looking for a polling station may also see some names they wouldn’t expect. Vote Here signs are typically viewed as province of libraries, churches, and recreation centers, but some lifestyle and entertainment spots in Austin are official polling spots again this year. Circus training center Sky Candy, Modo Yoga Studios and the Westlake site of P. Terry All are official Travis County’s polling stations for Election Day.

And so is Emos, the music venue, Riverside Drive, which, like so many other clubs in town, has been closed for months. A spokesman for C3 Presents, who owns the club, told the American statesman they were looking for ways to “make a real contribution to the voting process” while in-person shows are suspended, beyond advertising on social media and at virtual events .

“We reached out directly to Travis County officials and successfully applied for Emos Austin to be turned into a polling station so that we can provide the community with a familiar and centrally located polling center,” C3 Presents told the statesman.

At Joe’s bakery, Estrada wishes the restaurant could give away the usual free tacos. They did not offer a deal during the primaries earlier this year as it happened “precisely in the severity of COVID”.

But Estrada feels motivated.

Just in the first few days of the early voting, she saw a line of people stretching several blocks down Seventh Street to Sonic Drive-In. She believes people are passionate about this year’s election and she says they have a right to it. She is happy to be able to reward this enthusiasm with a discount.

“It’s something we can do now,” she says. “Something is better than nothing, I think so.”

MORE VOTING OFFERS

You can find our full list of perks for taking the surveys here. Email [email protected] and we will consider adding it to the online version of this list.

Jose Torres watches as Jaelah Salazar takes a customer order from Regina Estrada at Joe's Bakery & Coffee Shop on October 17th.  The dining room of the historic restaurant is currently closed due to the pandemic.

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