AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin fire crews are investigating the cause of a fire at the House Park Bar-B-Que restaurant early Tuesday morning that left the inside of the legendary eatery charred.
AFD says the restaurant located near the corner of West 12th Street and North Lamar Boulevard suffered extensive fire and smoke damage. Owner Matt Sullivan told KXAN investigators believe the fire started in the pit room, but they haven’t yet come up with the exact cause.
The fire was first reported just after midnight. AFD says the fire was quickly brought under control. No one was hurt.
“I still can’t believe it,” Joe Sullivan said. He’s the former owner of the restaurant, but has been helping the current owner, his son Matt, on occasion for the past 10 years. He said he’s hoping the landlord wants to rebuild it with him.
Joe Sullivan tried to put the fire out, but it flared up and then got out of control. He was able to get out of the building
“That fire was coming at me,” Joe Sullivan said. “I couldn’t even stop for the fire extinguisher.”
AFD Tweeted Wednesday that responding to the fire “was especially emotional for us; the legendary joint is owned by the Sullivan family. Joe Sullivan is the only one of five Sullivan brothers who didn’t join AFD.”
The restaurant opened in 1943, Matt Sullivan said. According to the restaurant’s website, it’s the oldest BBQ pit in Austin.
“My father bought it in 1981 right before the Memorial flood of ’81, so we have been through a couple tragedies before, if you will, here. So, we plan on bouncing back,” Matt Sullivan said.
Matt Sullivan set up a GoFundMe to raise money to “rebuild it better.” The fundraiser has a $100,000 goal.
Longtime customer Gabriel Valadez said a friend texted him about the fire, and he had to come see it for himself. He says he comes to eat at House Park Bar-B-Que three or four times a week.
“I had to come and visit because of Matt, his sister, everybody here,” Valadez said. “They’re not just, you know, regular people — they’re a family. And you hear this all the time with family-owned businesses and everything, but these guys make you feel like family. The customers — they get to know you on a personal level.”
He said it doesn’t seem real and he wants to help out as much as he can. He said he also hopes the community can come together to support the family and business.
“Honestly, I don’t want to have (other) barbecue any time soon,” Valadez said. “I want this barbecue.”
Matt Sullivan said he was grateful to all the people who came out and showed support.
“We have some of the best customers in town, and we love them to death,” he said.