Block party: Warehouse District’s effort to draw crowds
Hurt by months of road work, bars, restaurants offer Wednesday deals.
Come on back, folks. That’s the message from bars and restaurants in downtown Austin’s Warehouse District, where city road work that lasted almost six months has — finally — moved on. The construction created traffic tie-ups that sent customers elsewhere, owners say, causing sales to plunge by double digits in many cases.
At least one business — Maria Maria, a Mexican restaurant at 415 Colorado St. — was forced to shut down, its landlord told the AmericanStatesman.
To lure people back, the district, centered near West Fourth and Colorado streets, has kicked off Warehouse Wednesdays, a weekly event featuring live music, food and drink specials, reduced cover charges and discounted valet fees. About a dozen bars and restaurants, including Fado, Haven, Lavaca Street Bar, Lucky Lounge and Peche are participating.
“For months people have been thinking, ‘Let’s not go down there,’ ” said John Korioth, owner of Hangar Lounge and Six. “This is our way of letting them know the Fado serves slow-roasted pork belly with Magners cider reduction on Warehouse Wednesday. construction has left.”
Revenue dropped by about 20 percent when portions of nearby streets were blocked off, Korioth says. While business isn’t back to normal yet, he said, it’s getting there.
“It’s just amazing,” he said. “I’m so glad it’s gone.”
Michael Girard, the man behind ten Oak, Imperia and Speakeasy, said there was an immediate jump in sales after road crews moved a couple
blocks north. Familiar faces are back for the first time in months.
“It’s going to take time for all of us to rebuild our customer base,” he said. “People’s patterns have changed.”
Rather than competing with each other, club owners decided to band together, Korioth and Girard say, working as a group to make the area as vibrant as it once was.
“When we win, everyone wins,” Korioth said. “People who come down here don’t just go to my place alone. They’re going to go to two or three other places. Circulation is what’s best for all of us.”
Korioth says Warehouse Wednesdays are modeled, in part, after First Thursday events that have been a South Congress Avenue mainstay for years, drawing huge crowds to the iconic street’s uniquely Austin assortment of shops.
“Look at how successful they’ve been,” he said. “We, as a neighborhood, knew we needed to do something similar.”
New bars and restaurants are on the way as well. Avenue on Congress, a nightclub at 408 Congress Ave., plans to officially open for business this Saturday. The Capital Grille, a steakhouse chain that’s a corporate cousin to Olive Garden and Red Lobster, is moving into the building at 117 W. Fourth St. that once housed Spaghetti Warehouse. Another eatery, Searsucker, is set to take over the Maria Maria space. And Mastman’s, a Kosher restaurant, will debut soon at West Sixth and Colorado streets.
Once the holiday season wraps up, look for more events in the Warehouse District, according to Truluck’s operating partner David Tripoli.
“They can come down and eat and drink and play any day of the week.” he said. “We’re open and accessible.”
Fado Irish Pub worker Laura Lee Muchmore serves customers Luis Herrera and Chelsea Steele on a recent Warehouse Wednesday. The weekly event aims to draw customers back to the district’s bars and eateries.