AUSTIN, Texas - The owners of House Park BBQ spent Tuesday morning trying to salvage what they could. The iconic Austin landmark first opened in 1943 and is currently owned by Matt Sullivan and his sister Olivia.
They took it over from their father who purchased it in 1981.
The salvage job underway now includes retaining the hope that House Park BBQ has not seen its last day. “I’d like to rebuild this place and if we need money if we refunding will reach out to people we have a very loving crowd and family here have a great following and there’s no doubt in my mind if we want to rebuild this we can,” said Matt Sullivan.
The fire started around 12:30 Tuesday morning. Matt says his father was at the restaurant adding wood to the bbq pit and he believes a grease fire was ignited. “The fire came at them at such a tremendous heat that he had to to get out and fortunately he is OK,” said Matt.
Austin firefighters were able to quickly knock down the flames. But there is extensive smoke and fire damage inside. Most of the memorabilia, that hung on the walls for decades, is lost. A few items survived; like a picture of Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds greeting fans as they drove up Congress after filming the movie Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Throughout the morning customers like Joe Luke stopped by to see the damage for themselves. “And just to hear it caught on fire and we may lose it, it’s like the rest of 2020 it breaks my heart it’s like one more thing is disappearing, we have our restaurants disappearing, we have our musicians disappearing and it’s just a sad time,” said Luke.
Earlier this year Sullivan spoke to FOX 7 about surviving the initial COVID-19 shutdown. At that time, his big worry was if his business could survive another closure order. House Park BBQ has had to rebuild before. One disaster that swept through came out of Shoal Creek which runs next to it. Floods in 1981 and 2015 filled the building with 2 to 3 feet of water. Each time, Matt said, the business weathered the storm.
“It was mainly appliances this is kind of going to start from the ground up a fire is much different than a flood so we’re gonna start from the beginning and try to rebuild in there and get it back smoking,” said Matt.