Central Austin restaurant and bar closings increase pace in 2018

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In 2018, Community Impact Newspaper reported on the closures of 52 restaurants, bars and groceries.

The shutters include the Hyde Park cafe Dolce Vita, which closed in October after 26 years in business; North Austin restaurant The Frisco Shop, which closed in August, just shy of its 65th anniversary; West Campus barbecue spot Freedmen’s; downtown pizzeria Frank & Angie’s; and South Austin coffee shop Austin Java.

Other restaurants closed unexpectedly, with little or no notice, such as Takoba in East Austin, VOX Table at Lamar Union, Bonhomie on Burnet Road and Searsucker downtown.

Restaurateurs cited a variety of reasons, if any at all, for their decision to close, including rising rent and property taxes, as was the case at Threadgill’s World Headquarters, which closed in November after “desperately trying to find a way to keep from closing,” a company spokesperson said via email last spring.

Alcomar, on South First Street, closed in May due to a proposed rent increase that made business untenable. Its replacement, N’Esperado, opened in August and closed quietly four months later.

Other contributing factors include a tightening labor market—Austin’s unemployment rate was 2.7 percent percent in November 2018, the most recent month for which data is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—and increased competition.

The Frisco Shop, the West Campus location of Conan’s Pizza and downtown’s Planet Sub all attributed their decisions to close, in part, to staffing challenges.

Last year Community Impact Newspaper reported on at least 99 restaurant, bar and grocery openings in Central Austin, nearly double the number of closings.

Many other restaurants publicly struggled to remain open, starting crowdfunding campaigns to stay afloat—as did Phara’s Mediterranean and Christopher’s Casbah in the North Loop neighborhood—or relying on community-led efforts, such as Second Saturdays at Sam’s, a monthly Facebook event intended to draw customers to Sam’s Bar-B-Que, a 61-year-old institution on the east side.

These closings represent a slight increase since 2017, when Community Impact Newspaper confirmed 41 restaurant and bar closures in the area.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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