The Mayor of East Sixth Street
Bob Woody has been a fixture of downtown Austin for decades. He bought into his first downtown property, Old Pecan Street Cafe, in the early 1980s and has worked his way to owning all or part of 26 bars, live music venues and restaurants.
Woody was born and raised in Waterford, Texas, and moved to Austin for the first time in 1972. He started in the service industry as a busboy in 1970, and though he has not been a drinker for 25 years, he has spent the majority of his time in bars and restaurants for more than 30 years.
Woody said the man who named him the ‘Mayor of East Sixth Street’ is former mayor Gus Garcia.
“Gus Garcia said, ‘Bob Woody is a jewel. He is the mayor of East Sixth Street,'” Woody said.
Woody is the president of three associations downtown, owns the Texas Walk of Stars, and he owns six buildings in Austin and one in Dallas.
Tell us about your upcoming restaurant, Michelada’s Cafe y Cantina.
My son and I are partners on it. He pulled up in front of that cafe and said, ‘Hey, Dad. We need to talk about the name for the business down on Second Street.’
I said, ‘OK, I got an idea. You take a glass and you salt it and then you put tequila and triple sec in it and some lime juice. Put that down in front of someone and what do you call that?’ He said, ‘A margarita. There’s already a place called that.’
I said, ‘OK, what if you take a glass, you put rum and Coke and a squeeze of lime in it?’ He said, ‘That’s a cuba libre. There’s already a bar called Cuba Libre.’ I said, ‘How about this? You take a glass, you salt it, put some ice in it, squeeze some lime in it, add some spices, and then pour a beer in it.’ He said, ‘That’s a michelada. Oh, that’s it.’ I said, ‘Maybe I already knew that was it.’
But in all seriousness, I’m anticipating an Oct. 20 opening date. It’ll definitely be open in October. It’s such an amazing location across from the convention center (333 E. Second St.). It holds so many people, and we’ve got a great chef, Tyler Johnson. He’s been in the Mexican food industry for many years.
I think it’s going to be iconic. I think it’s going to be the place where you can go get a plate of fajitas where it’s not outrageously expensive.
The restaurant can accommodate 1,200–1,500 people on the flow throughout the night, and you don’t have to have any transportation, they can just walk over there and stagger back to their hotel. It’s so important to have things like that close to the convention center.
What is the difference between having a bar on West Sixth versus East Sixth?
I’m the landlord of Opal Divine’s, Brew Exchange, J. Black’s and The Ranch. The difference is age. What I want to do is to open a hospital in East Austin and I want [a prospective customer]to be born there, and I want him to drink on East Sixth Street until he moves on to drink at West Sixth Street. I’d also like to open a graveyard on far West Sixth and have him buried there. So I want to have him to cradle to grave.
I’m kidding about the hospital, but you see what I’m saying. You’ve got a little more professional workers on West Sixth versus a college student on East Sixth. You bring your girl in to a bar on East Sixth; you get a few beers for $4. Then, you leave her to go to the bathroom and there’s four college boys hitting on her.
You buy two beers for $9 on West Sixth Street, you leave her there to go to the bathroom and she’s sitting there on the leather bar stool when you get back, and everything’s all right.
What are some of the trends you’re seeing in nightlife in Austin?
Everybody seems to be trying to go retro, and that’s fine. I like pubs, myself. A pub is timeless. I don’t want to say I’m getting wore out on retro; I’m just seeing too much of it, and I think we’re going to saturate at some point.
I prefer bars that have a lot of transactions and can afford what they do. So, while I like it and I think it’s novel, I think there comes a time when you say, ‘I’m going to go to Lustre Pearl instead.’
What do you have planned for the future?
Well, I’m working on a live music venue right now. I have a brand-new concept, and it’s at a property that’s been undeveloped as a club in the past. I’m really excited about it, and it I’m all hot and heavy and ready to make it happen.
I’m lucky to be where I’m at. I’m involved with 26 businesses. I’m touching a lot of employees, about 350 people that we gainfully employ, and my sales throughout everything are about $25 million per year.
I recently bought a building, 708 E. Sixth St., called the Habana Annex. That’s kind of one of the new focuses I’ve got right now. That’s part of the Waller Creek development. I also am a producer on a movie called ‘The Bounce Back.’ It’ll come out this next year.
What have you seen change over the years?
I’ve seen changes and things come and go. I’ve seen the warehouse district blow up, but I see it having some hard times now and struggling.
There’s just not a lot of excitement over there, and I’m not criticizing it. It’s a fact. They’re struggling to keep businesses open over there.
The industry you’ve chosen is a really exhausting one. Do you plan to do this forever?
I like the bar business, and I like being in it. It fits well with me. I haven’t drank any beer or alcohol at all in 25 years. I finally got it all out of my system because I couldn’t be on my game as well if I did I think.
That movie production is my first time to do something like that, and I’m involved with a show that’s going to be on television this next year as well, on a national level. I’m so excited. I have two sons and a daughter, and we’re in real estate development and bar and restaurant development. As for the entertainment industry, I think I’m probably headed a little more in that direction.