Block party: Ware­house District’s ef­fort to draw crowds

Hurt by months of road work, bars, restau­rants of­fer Wed­nes­day deals.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Gary Dinges gdinges@states­ PHO­TOS BY RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

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.

Matt Carter ar­ranges beers at the Hangar Lounge be­fore open­ing. ri­Cardo b. brazziell / amer­i­Can-states­man

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