As rents increase for many restaurant and bar locations in Austin — and they face increased competition from many openings — their owners are having to find ways of staying afloat. East Sixth Street bar Rio Rita’s owner Randall Stockton has found his: a relocation to East Twelfth and Chicon streets, where Rio Rita is taking over music venue Badlands’ space.
The move was announced on Facebook earlier this week, with Stockton penning a long post that explained the relocation. He’s having to move Rio Rita because rent at its current location is, no surprise, too high.
“Unfortunately, our mixed good fortune comes amidst others’ misfortune,” he wrote in the Facebook post. “You see, our new location will be at 1203 Chicon, the current location of Badlands Austin. And Badlands is a venue beloved by many, which makes none too small a contribution to our community.”
Although the owner of Badlands, Shane Howard, had intended to renew his lease, he noted in his own Facebook post written earlier in the day Wednesday that the landlord had accepted an offer from Stockton, who also owns other bars like Beerland on Red River Street, because it was higher than the cost of Howard’s lease.
“We attempted to find a way to resolve the issue in a less traumatic way, without success,” Howard wrote. “For now, we are being forced to cancel or postpone all scheduled events until a new location can be secured.”
Both of the stories on Facebook offer differing accounts — Stockton said the move is happening because the Badlands’ owner simply didn’t get his lease signed, while Howard said he had made a lease agreement with his landlord before Rio Rita’s owner made a higher offer — but the sum of it is that Stockton is acquiring not only the Badlands’ space but also Howard’s additional properties of the Romani Gallery and Mystery City Tattoo nearby, after learning that other interested parties wanted the entire corner of businesses at East Twelfth and Chicon streets.
He purchased the King Bee Lounge as well, which is the neighboring bar run by his half-brother Billy Hankey.
“Rather than risk losing the chance to renew the lease at King Bee, rather than risk an opportunity to save Rio Rita (my wife’s favorite), rather than risk losing the 25 employees for whom I feel ultimately responsible, I said, ‘Yes,” Stockton wrote.
The Badlands’ lease expires on Sept. 30, but there’s no word yet on when Rio Rita makes the move from East Sixth Street.