When La Corsha Hospitality Group partners Jeff Trigger and chef David Bull opened Second Bar + Kitchen at Congress Avenue and Second Street, downtown Austin was still relatively quiet in terms of high-quality local dining and drinking options.
Their New American restaurant, which helped introduce Austinites to the idea of pizzas topped with black truffles, blue cheese and dates served from a menu that also featured light, Asian-inspired fish dishes, ushered in a new era of refined casual dining. Second’s bustling bar scene and the group’s adjacent craft cocktail destination, Bar Congress, and fine dining restaurant, Congress, both since closed, rounded out the impressive offerings and made the complex the visual hub for dining and drinking of a new downtown.
Ten years later, downtown Austin is largely quiet once again. The coronavirus pandemic has emptied many office towers, put a halt to overflowing festival crowds, spelled the temporary end of conventioneers wandering the streets and stifled out-of-state tourism. In the face of such dire conditions, Second Bar + Kitchen announced this week that it had permanently closed after 10 years in business.
The restaurant’s 10-year lease was set to expire at the end of the year, and La Corsha president Trigger said there was no way forward given the circumstances.
"You’re faced with this reality when your main sources of business have dried up," Trigger told the American-Statesman. "It’s death by a thousand cuts."
Though Trigger say’s he’s optimistic that the restaurant business could return to close to 70 percent by fall, the bridge to get there is too tenuous.
"It’s a nightmare and we’re still not finished with it," Trigger said.
Second Bar + Kitchen reopened with limited capacity in the spring but closed its doors in July. Trigger says they had planned to reopen, but a cancelled slate of fall events and concerns about customer and employee health convinced him otherwise, and opening for takeout only did not make financial sense.
Despite the fact the expiring lease gave La Corsha a sensible end point for Second Bar + Kitchen and the comfort of knowing that employees had been hired at other La Corsha properties, Trigger says closing the restaurant was still difficult.
"I was doing fine until we made the announcement to our crew at the Domain," Trigger said. When chef Bull made the announcement, there was just applause at the 10-year run. He got choked up and called me and told me the story and I got choked up."
La Corsha continues to operate its Second locations at the Domain and Austin-Bergstrom International airport, and also operates Mattie’s (in the old Green Pastures space); the East Austin Hotel and its multiple food and beverage concepts; the historic Stagecoach Inn; Hotel Settles in Big Spring; and the forthcoming Baker Hotel and Spa in Mineral Wells.