Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Owner of Sixth Street bars Bufords, Shakespeare's and more opens White Tiger on South Congress

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Restaurant and bar White Tiger is now open on South Congress Avenue.

One of the biggest operators of downtown Austin bars has taken his act south of the river. 

Bob Woody, the man behind a dozen downtown bars and restaurants — including Sixth Street bars Buforfd’s, the Ranch and Shakespeare’s Pub — has transformed the former Botticelli’s space into his newest restaurant/bar, White Tiger

White Tiger is classified as a restaurant, though it's likely one of the few restaurants in town that advertises shots behind its bar. That means it's mandated by state law to make the majority of its revenue from food sales, which will come from a menu that includes burgers, tacos, Southwestern egg rolls, nachos and other popular bar foods. 

The transition of the space, from intimate neighborhood Italian restaurant to a business that labels itself as a shot bar on its Facebook page, is a marked change in aesthetic and vibe for the developing stretch of South Austin’s premiere tourist destination. SoCo has recently welcomed Hotel Magdalena and Chicago-based Mediterranean restaurant Aba to its list of tenants, joining longtime neighbors Perla’s, Continental Club and Home Slice Pizza. Outside of live music clubs, traditional bars aren't common on the popular stretch of South Congress Avenue.

But Woody, who drew public criticism and the wrath of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission earlier in the pandemic after pictures of an overcrowded Buford’s appeared online, says he’s not worried if people look askance at his arrival on SoCo. 

“I could care so little less about that,” Woody told the American-Statesman last week.  “Ninety percent of our business has been the people who live over here. Let’s let the neighborhood enjoy it.”

TABC temporarily suspended Buford’s permit to sell alcohol in June as part of the state’s Operation Safe Open, created to crack down on establishments that violated capacity and/or social distancing rules established by the state. No other Woody bars have received warnings or penalties, according to state records. 

White Tiger opened the week before Austin and Travis County officials announced that the area has entered Stage 5 of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines for COVID-19 and recommended restaurants shift to curbside and delivery only.

Woody says he’s following state laws and guidance about capacity limits, social distancing and sanitation, instead of the local Stage 5 guidance. He also pointed to recent contact tracing data in New York state that found 1.4% of coronavirus infections over a three-month period could be traced back to restaurants and bars.

Contact tracing information has not been robust in much of the country, however. Kaiser Health News contacted the health departments serving the 25 most populous counties in the U.S., and only nine confirmed they were collecting and reporting data on potential links between restaurants and COVID cases, according to a recent report.

White Tiger is currently seating about 50 people in its dining room and back patio, which is around 50 percent of its capacity. It's open from late afternoon until about 10 or 11 p.m., but Woody, who also operates downtown restaurant Micheladas, says that in the new year he intends to be open for lunch and dinner daily, with White Tiger staying open until midnight most nights. He also plans to add live music sometime around March.