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Lost Austin

Lost Austin: Iconic restaurants, venues and more that didn’t make it out of 2020

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When the coronavirus pandemic swept through Austin this year, it brought lockdowns, capacity limits and unemployment. Conditions like these caused several area businesses to close for good. They were places where patrons made memories over the years, from first dates to family dinners to watching Janis Joplin play live. As the city's grown, local businesses have kept its eclectic spirit alive for visitors, new residents and longtime locals alike. Many of these stores and restaurants were built by owners who worked long hours and took chances to ensure their livelihood. Their passion made Austin what it is.

Statesman visual journalist Ana Ramirez captured the owners of 10 Austin businesses as they shut their doors for good.

Dart Bowl

Est. 1958

John Donovan and Betty Ray, owners of Dart Bowl, on July 23.
John Donovan and Betty Ray, owners of Dart Bowl, on July 23.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

The coronavirus pandemic caused Dart Bowl owners John Donovan and Betty Ray to close their bowling alley's doors on July 17, 2020, after being in business for 62 years.

“We’re heartbroken, but the coronavirus has changed the business climate for now and we’re sad to see it go,” Donovan said.

Ray said she will miss the customers the most.

“A sad ending to a happy time,” Ray said.

Donovan agreed.

“There are people that have been customers of ours that we see every week for 30 years. ... We’re going to miss them,” he said.

Threadgill’s

Est. 1981

Eddie Wilson, owner of  Threadgill's, on April 22.
Eddie Wilson, owner of Threadgill's, on April 22.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Threadgill's owner Eddie Wilson announced the closure of the original location in late April 2020.

Located on North Lamar Boulevard, Threadgill’s was opened in the 1930s by Kenneth Threadgill but closed for a while before being reopened by Wilson in 1981.

“When I reopened Threadgill’s, I wanted it to be what it always had been before, and a little more,” Wilson said. “I wanted it to be part of the Austin legacy, and as being the first licensed beer joint in town after Prohibition, in 1933. I wanted to add a real Southern version of what I was raised eating at my mother’s house.”

Wilson said he’s had a lot of good memories and he can’t tell folks about half of them.

“It’s kind of a cozy, cozy little version of what Austin used to be like, and it hadn’t been a half-bad place to hang out and visit with friends. We’ve had a lot of mingling of old folks telling stories here,” he said.

“But it’s just time for me to just have made a move on down the road and get out of the way,” Wilson said.

He said it’s time for him to spend time with his wife, Sandra, and grandchildren.

Vulcan Video

Est. 1985

Diane Donnell, owner of Vulcan Video,  on April 22.
Diane Donnell, owner of Vulcan Video, on April 22.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Vulcan Video owner Diane Donnell announced the permanent closure of the business on April 7, 2020, because of business loss caused by the coronavirus. She founded the company in 1985.

Donnell said she can’t pick just one favorite experience from owning Vulcan all these years.

“I’ve really enjoyed knowing all the people that have come through as employees,” she said.

Donnell said the whole landscape of video stores has changed because of the internet. She herself uses online streaming.

“(Streaming is) not nearly as complete as going to a store like this and finding all these little obscure things, with obscure directors or stars or anything,” she said.

Overall, Donnell is ready to move away from the business and called it a “financial burden” toward the end and said she’s moving out to the country.

“It’s been a dream of mine since my hippie days of long ago. I think it started with Woodstock, actually," Donnell said. "I was there and saw all these people living in their vans and traveling around the country.”

Magnolia Cafe West

Est. 1979

Kent Cole, owner of Magnolia Cafe, on April 23.
Kent Cole, owner of Magnolia Cafe, on April 23.
Ana Ramirez/.American-Statesman

After 41 years of business, Magnolia Cafe owner Kent Cole and his family made the tough decision in mid-April to close the original location on Lake Austin Boulevard amid the pandemic after declining sales the last few years. The beloved restaurant began as the Omelettry West in 1979 and was renamed in 1987 after Cole bought out his partner. The Magnolia Cafe located on South Congress Avenue remains open.

“When COVID-19 came, we recognized the world will be changing forever,” Cole said.

“One’s own experiences make the person; you create your existence, and I am one of the most …” Cole said, pausing to cry before continuing, “I personally have been one of the most fortunate people ever because I was able to be a part of such a beautiful world as Magnolia Cafe.”

I Luv Video

Est. 1985

Conrad Bejarano, owner of I Luv Video, on Sept. 9.
Conrad Bejarano, owner of I Luv Video, on Sept. 9.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Conrad Bejarano opened I Luv Video almost 40 years ago in Austin. On Sept. 1, Bejarano announced that he would have to permanently close the location on Airport Boulevard because of a combination of COVID-19 related issues and the increasing costs of real estate. The store had been closed since March to ensure the safety of his employees.

Bejarano said he’s spent a good part of his adult life in the video store and he hopes the business will continue with another owner.

“There’s a lot of human beings involved in all of this library. That’s intense! I mean, someone gave their life writing a script, actors," he said. "So there’s something really cool and archival about all these movies.”

Mother’s Cafe

Est. late 1970s

John Silberberg, Anne Daniels and Cameron Alexander, owners of Mother's Cafe, on Oct. 28.
John Silberberg, Anne Daniels and Cameron Alexander, owners of Mother's Cafe, on Oct. 28.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

John Silberberg, Anne Daniels and Cameron Alexander closed Mother's Cafe because of the coronavirus pandemic after being open for 40 years. Charles Mayes and Blake Mitchell originally opened the restaurant as Good Food Cafe in the late 1970s. Alexander, Daniels and Silberberg all worked at the restaurant in the early '80s, and in 1985 the three bought the restaurant from the founders. The vegetarian restaurant held on until Oct. 24.

“Full of reflection for the millions of experiences I’ve had here. With customers, their families, their friends, their holidays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. So I just feel that the building is just loud with all of those experiences and memories,” Daniels said when asked how she felt looking at the empty restaurant. “I thought that I was a rolling stone and that I was going to have many different career paths and many different cities, and I no more thought that I’d become this big tree with really deep roots that had nice shade for everybody.” 

Daniels said she went to different psychics throughout the years and asked them when she was going to do what she was really supposed to do, “because I felt like there was something else I was supposed to do,” she said. “And three different psychics started laughing, and they said, ‘You should pat yourself on the back because you ARE doing what you’re supposed to do.’”

Blue Dahlia Bistro

Est. 2007

Sam and Amy Ramirez, owners of Blue Dahlia Bistro, on May 6.
Sam and Amy Ramirez, owners of Blue Dahlia Bistro, on May 6.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Amy Ramirez opened Blue Dahlia Bistro on 11th Street 13 years ago. The couple made the announcement of the closure of the original location through Facebook in late April. They had to close the business after a financial loss caused by the coronavirus. The restaurant holds many close memories for the two. Sam proposed to Amy there in 2007. The Westlake and San Marcos locations remain open.

One-2-One Bar

Est. 2004

Gregg Ware, owner of One-2-One Bar, on Aug, 25.
Gregg Ware, owner of One-2-One Bar, on Aug, 25.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Gregg and Destinee Ware opened the One-2-One bar almost 17 years ago. The club announced the closure in late August after financial loss caused by the coronavirus. Gregg Ware said the couple decided to open the place for the love of local music.

“Our vision when we opened was to be a neighborhood-type bar with occasional music, not a ton. But I grew up after high school going to Steamboat, Black Cat and a bunch of the Sixth Street live music venues and just met a lot of bands, that’s what I did. Then a lot of those bands started coming and playing in my club,” he said.

Ware and his wife plan to sell One-2-One because of the pandemic.

“Our last show was March 15 of this year. Since then we haven’t been able to do anything at all, so debt has just been collecting,” he said.

He said the decision to sell is bittersweet because the leadership in Austin has changed.

“The music scene has been pushed a little by the wayside, and it is what it is, I guess. It sucks that its happening. Musicians can’t afford to live here anymore,” Ware said.

Ware said he’s going to miss the fans and bands the most because they became their family.

B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub

Est. 2000

Steve Basile, co-owner of  B.D. Riley's Irish Pub, on Sept. 8.
Steve Basile, co-owner of B.D. Riley's Irish Pub, on Sept. 8.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Steve Basile has been drinking at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub since it opened 20 years ago and has been a partner for 17 years. John Erwin opened the bar in 2000 on Sixth Street. In late August the partners announced the decision to not renew the lease because of the pandemic. The location in Mueller remains open.

“This pandemic has changed the complexion of downtown,” Basile said. “It’s shuttered the hotels that we rely on for our business travelers, ended the conventions that we rely on for our tourism, closed most of the bars and music venues along the street, at least for now, that we rely on for foot traffic and all of those things conspire to make this not a viable proposition for the foreseeable future.”

Throughout the years, the business has hosted weddings, funerals, wakes and other celebrations.

“It’s sad. It’s like losing a family pet,” he said. “A pub loves you back unconditionally as well, and I’ve spent many many hours here with lots of friends and family.”

El Interior

Est. 1979

Marcia Lucas, owner of  El Interior, on July 23.
Marcia Lucas, owner of El Interior, on July 23.
Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman

Marcia Lucas has been traveling to Mexico and Guatemala for the past 40 years to purchase clothing and art. The store closed when the lease was up in August. Lucas had planned to sell the store this year, and when the coronavirus hit, the decision was easier.

“I didn’t start a business to struggle, (and) I didn’t want to end it to struggle. It’s been a fabulous business. I’ve had a wonderful life doing this business, and so it was just time to end,” Lucas said.

Lucas said she will miss her customers.

“I’ve been incredibly grateful for the response from the community and all the gratitude my longtime customers have expressed.”

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