A roughly 1-mile stretch of South Menchaca Road, between West Slaughter Lane and Old Manchaca Road, has dramatically changed over the past four years with the opening of several additional bars since 2019.
The Menchaca strip includes:
- Moontower Saloon, the longest-running bar in the strip, opened in 2012 by Josh Bumb and Richard Veregge.
- The Hive, which includes a coffee shop and full bar, moved from Old Manchaca Road to this strip in 2019.
- South Austin Beer Garden opened in 2019.
- Armadillo Den opened in 2020.
- Lustre Pearl South opened in 2021.
- Parlay House opened in 2022.
- Lulu’s opened in 2022.
- Bodhi’s Hideaway will open in 2023.
- Indian Roller used to be part of the strip but closed Oct. 23 after eight years. However, the owners said they plan to find a new business to take over the space that “keeps the Austin dream alive and the South Austin scene weird, unique and soulful."
“It’s amazing to watch the growth down south and see so many options for the residents,” said Naomi Kramer, one of the owners of South Austin Beer Garden. “The establishments are locally owned and operated, which continues to enhance that true South Austin vibe.”
The South Austin vibe she refers to includes a unique mixture of food trucks, live music and entertainment.
While many of the owners of the bars in this district say it is a great option for nearby patrons, as it offers a place where people can find fun without having to travel to downtown Austin, some neighbors are finding it difficult to welcome the late-night noise and extra traffic.
An eclectic scene
With all of the bars in the area, there are always plenty of games and live entertainment options from local artists, said Armadillo co-owner Brett Berry. Nearly all of them are kid-friendly until later in the evenings, and all of them are dog-friendly.
This stretch of bars is outside of the Austin city limits, meaning it has no zoning requirements for the properties on the west side of the street. The east side of the street is within the city limits and is peppered with residential housing. Without zoning restrictions, business owners do not have to rezone a business from residential to commercial, for example, before trying to open a new bar in the district.
Many of the bar owners said they chose South Austin because of its rich history, which includes live music by local artists, locally owned food trucks and beers.
Naynay Najm, Parlay House media and marketing manager, said she loves being in the South Menchaca entertainment scene, because it is bringing back Austin culture to the south side of the city.
“Our neighborhoods can enjoy a variety of bars that each offer a different vibe for every occasion,” Najm said. “At Parlay House, for example, we have live music and local vendor events on weekdays, and DJs on weekends for a balance of artistic revival and the downtown party scene without the downtown chaos.”
Kramer said when South Austin Beer Garden opened in 2019, options for entertainment in the area were limited, and people were having to travel downtown to have fun. With the opening of the bars in the South Menchaca area, though, that has changed.
“The South Austin venues are an inexpensive rideshare away from home, plus most of the establishments offer to cover the cost of that rideshare for those that need it,” she said.
Neighbors weigh in
While some find it beneficial to not have to go downtown to have a good time, others find having the entertainment district in their neighborhood challenging at times.
“There’s a long history of bars and live music venues in ‘way South Austin,’” said Cyndy Karras, president of the Sweetwater Glen Homeowners Association board of directors, which sits across the street from the bar district.
Since Moontower opened in 2012, there has been a pattern repeated in the area, Karras said, with bars opening, attracting new visitors and then settling into the eclectic mix of nightlife venues.
“Each one has added to the overall vibrancy and appeal of the area as an entertainment destination that offers a diverse range of options in terms of live music, food trucks and events,” Karras said.
However, Karras said the neighborhood struggles with the noise from the nearby bars at night.
Will Martinez, a State Farm representative whose business is in the middle of the 1-mile stretch of bars, said it is mostly orderly during the week, but on the weekends he has seen people throwing trash, such as beer cans and liquor bottles, in his parking lot.
“And that’s not the worst I’ve seen there on the weekends from the people going to the bars,” Martinez said, adding that he will be moving his business farther south.
Another concern is the foot traffic due to patrons walking from one bar to another along the roadway, he said.
“There aren’t a lot of sidewalks in the area, so I’m afraid for people who are walking, because people in cars just speed down that road,” he said.
Bradley Wheelis, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation, said TxDOT has taken several steps to help mitigate the dangers in the area, including vehicle traffic. However, the agency has no plans to address the lack of sidewalks along the state-owned roadway. Wheelis said in summer 2021, the speed limit was lowered from 55 to 50 miles per hour in the area. In addition, TxDOT also installed no-parking signs and additional pavement markings to enhance safety in the district.
Wheelis said a a repaving project will begin in the summer, and will include new, more visible markings and textured markers on the outside of lanes.
Traffic accidents have decreased over the past two years, according to data from the Austin Transportation Department. The data shows in 2019 there were two serious injuries, and in 2020 there were two serious injuries and one death. Since 2021, however, there has only been one serious injury reported in the area as a result of a traffic accident.
Despite what some see as growing pains, more is planned for the district. South Menchaca’s newest bar, Bodhi’s Hideaway, which is a project from the South Austin Beer Garden owners, opens in spring in the area known as Stinson Yard. Stinson Yard is home to Lulu’s and Parlay House and next to Lustre Pearl South. Like South Austin Beer Garden and Moontower Saloon, it will feature an indoor and outdoor space with food trucks on-site. Berry, who owns Armadillo Den with Skylar Reeves, Cade Archer, and Josh Hazzard, said he welcomes the additional bars in the district.
“This area has really brought out that old-school Austin feeling, where it’s more about hanging with friends, supporting local tunes and just good vibes without having to deal with the downtown riffraff,” Barry said. “South Austin is exploding, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch it grow.”