AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal/KXAN) — Easy Tiger has officially left its original downtown location on East Sixth Street as it prepares to open its newest store in South Austin next month.
It’s a bittersweet moment for the company, which joins a growing number of downtown storefronts — from bars such as B.D. Riley’s to music venues such as Barracuda — that have shuttered for good during the pandemic, which has turned the Central Business District into something of a ghost town.
Easy Tiger, of course, still has a location open for outdoor dining at The Linc shopping center in north Central Austin, where it also continues to bake tons of bread for grocery stores and restaurants, and a second on the way on South Lamar Boulevard.
But the original, which opened in 2012 at 709 E. Sixth St., has been central to the company’s identity — a refuge of calm on an otherwise rowdy bar row known as “Dirty Sixth.”
Both CEO Matt Stitt, who was hired in January, and the location’s landlord said the departure was “mutually satisfactory,” according to ABJ.
Easy Tiger, known for its beer gardens and signature breads and pretzels, shut down the gardens in March and has since dropped from about 180 workers to about 50.
The location continued to operate during the pandemic through delivery, carry-outs and limited seating.
While bars have been one focal point of mandatory business closures in Texas, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission made it possible for bars that serve food to continue operations as long as they qualified as restaurants under certain state guidelines.
COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to the restaurant/bar industry and earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that many Texas businesses would be allowed to expand capacity of guests, but not bars.
Abbott said bars are “nationally recognized” as COVID-19 spreading locations and that reopening will not happen yet.
The Downtown Austin Alliance estimating back in July that foot traffic on Congress Avenue dropped from about 35,000 people a day to about 5,000 people on July 4.
A survey by the alliance indicated that recovery for downtown Austin businesses and re-openings began was happening slow, if it all.
“The future is really uncertain,” said Alliance CEO Dewitt Peart. “What we’re hearing is that there are about 185 of those 770 storefronts that aren’t sure what the future holds or what they will do, so that’s a little bit concerning to us.”
An earlier survey in July found that 62% of live music venues and 55% of restaurant/bars in the Austin area say they may be closed by Halloween.
The survey polled 1,050 participants and the majority said they could only operate under current conditions for about four months or less.
At that time, only 19% of live music venues and 40% of restaurants/bars said they were able to pay the entirety of their June rent.
In its Facebook announcement on Friday, Easy Tiger Downtown said, in part, “This is a bittersweet moment. 6th Street is our home, where we baked our first loaves of bread and poured our first craft beers. So much good has come from that scrappy little Bake Shop and Beer Garden, and there’s still so much more to come. This is not goodbye — we will definitely return to downtown.”