Longtime Austin establishments closing for good, service industry trying to help one another

As the COVID-19 shutdown wears on, some longtime bars and restaurants in the Austin area are saying goodbye. 

For 41 years, the sign outside of Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard has read “Sorry, we’re open.”  Now a “Sorry, we’re closed” sign in the window points to a darker reality, one many bar and restaurant owners have had to face. 

The iconic cafe on the city’s west side will not reopen. On Facebook the owners write in part: 

“Things have been slowing down there for the past few years. In the face of such a huge hit with the reality of Covid-19 and the incredible uncertainty of the future, we’ve had to confront the fact that this location will not survive.” 

Eight miles away, NXNW Brewery is also bidding the Austin community farewell. 

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“There’s a lot of small guys in this industry that are hoping against hope, and we did a little bit of that by doing the to-go business, and when that didn’t pan out, we really just saw the writing on the wall that this is where the world is these days and it’s not coming back soon,” said Davis Tucker, owner of NXNW Brewery. 

After 20 years, Tucker couldn’t have imagined such a sudden, unsatisfying end to the brewery business he built. 

“To see that go away, without the chance to hug somebody and say, ‘Hey, I love you and appreciate everything you’ve been and done for me as an individual and for my staff,’ and have the staff be able to say that goodbye is really tough,” Tucker said. 

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Service industry professionals all over Austin are struggling as the shutdown lingers on. 

“It’s super sad to see. I saw that Magnolia Cafe was closing one of their spots the other day. I think probably half, in my opinion, of the spots won’t make it if we have to stay closed much longer,” said Seth Klein, manager of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. 

In an attempt to ease the strain a little bit, Rustic Tap has started serving the city’s servers with a new idea they are calling, “Pay it forward Friday’s.” 

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“We’re just doing our part to make sure everybody else is staying in touch and fed and just trying to stay positive,” said Brett Berry, operating partner of Rustic Tap Beer Garden. 

The West Sixth Street bar and restaurant takes donations from the community and uses that money to provide free meals to Austin’s servers and bartenders. 

“Nobody’s too proud right now. It’s definitely a time where if you do need a little helping hand, everybody’s willing to reach. So anybody who wants a meal we’re trying to help and just get them fed and going,” Berry said. 

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“Being able to feed some of these people, they’re having a hard time paying their rent and stuff, paying their bills, all that stuff. So having a meal, not having to worry about finding food for the day is pretty cool,” said Klein. 

Donate a Pay it Forward Friday meal here.


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