Frankie Randazzo knew he had to make some cuts.
The co-owner of Library Bar in downtown Fort Worth saw the cost of food, rent and live entertainment grow so much that the bar took stock of its expenses, large and small.
“We looked at everything, from the price of ketchup to the price of insurance,” he said.
Inflation affects all aspects of life, and nightlife is no exception. Fort Worth’s venues and artists felt the squeeze throughout 2022, but, as prices come down, they see some hope – a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inflation rate in December was 6.5%, which is an 0.5 percentage point decrease from 7% in December 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. The inflation rate measures increase on the Consumer Price Index, which tracks the average price of goods monthly. Falling gas prices were the largest contributor to the decrease, but the rate is still higher than the Federal Reserve’s annual target of 2%, and is expected to remain high through 2023.
Alcohol prices have affected Fort Worth’s nightlife the most, said Julie Percival, regional economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average price of alcohol purchased outside the home in December of 2022 was 6.8% – a 3 percentage point increase from 3.7% in December 2021, according to the consumer price index. Increased demand for grain, a major ingredient for alcohol, and transportation of the good caused 2022’s high prices, Percival said.
Randazzo started having monthly meetings with Chris Bloomquist, Library Bar’s general manager, to decide how to maintain a great guest experience while being cost-efficient. They decided to stay with live entertainment because it’s important to make things stable for their staff and guests, Randazzo said.
“It’s really hard to say if The Library is doing great, but it’s doing great in comparison to the last three years of absolute chaos,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nightlife economy, much like the rest of the greater economy, is showing mixed signals.
Attendance at businesses like Billy Bob’s Texas and Wild Acre Live increased in 2022, according to Visit Fort Worth data. At the same time, the average amount a person spent on nightlife last year was up 10.3% from 2021, said Lauren Phillips, Visit Fort Worth’s director of research.
Increased attendance and consumer spending have not benefited those soundtracking people’s nighttime fun, musicians told the Fort Worth Report. Inflation is still a key issue.
Fort Worth-based indie rock artist Court Hoang had to pause his music career to pick up more shifts at his day job as a software engineer.
With their newborn baby, Hoang and his wife started looking for a bigger house, but their wants don’t match their financial reality right now.
“We need more space, but we just can’t afford more space right now,” said Hoang.
Venues usually pay smaller artists by bar sales or percentages of door sales. If venues don’t have people spending money, everyone hurts, he said.
Hoang went on a small tour last year for his album “Get Right,” but the summer’s high gas prices ate up whatever profit he made, he said.
“Last year was a little bit of a wash,” he added.
Inflation hasn’t just affected him financially but creatively, too, he said. Hoang’s music is focused on systemic and social issues.
“When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re not really in a good place to think about big-picture issues,” he said.
Independent artists don’t have the same financial backing as signed artists and often have to pay out of pocket for mixing and mastering their music and merchandise production.
Fort Worth-based alternative artist Bencjones — Ben Jones’ stage name — saves money by recording music from home, but he still pays $1,600 for mixing and mastering.
“That doesn’t include going out and finding musicians,” Jones said. “It’s a little frustrating because I do like the idea of always having music in the pipeline.”
Jones used to produce an album a year. But he slowed to producing an album every 18 months because of the rising cost of living expenses and food.
While some Fort Worth venue owners and artists felt the squeeze of inflation, some nightlife regulars are starting to have a care-free attitude toward rising prices.
White Settlement resident Cynclaire Ivory, 24, frequently visits Curfew Bar in downtown Fort Worth and the Stockyards for her taste of nightlife. Inflation has not stopped Ivory from going out and having fun.
“From a Gen-Z standpoint, even though the majority of us are broke, we still like at least to have a good time with the little money we have,” she said. “It’s either have a good time with no money, or be miserable with very little money.”
Fort Worth resident Joshua Bircher, 21, saw fewer people going out during the peak of inflation. Now, he notices that more people are tired of not having excitement in their lives and are willing to pay whatever price to have a good time.
“People are finally starting to make the most out of their time by simply having fun, reversing the effects of the pandemic,” Bircher said. “The future is bright for the clubs and creative communities in North Texas.”
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.