Last Tuesday, Austin officials ordered the shuttering of bars and dine-in restaurant service throughout the city response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, many businesses have closed completely in order to ride out the storm until May 1, when everything is expected to reopen. (The state of Texas followed suit on Thursday as well.)
Bars and restaurants prepped for the closures by locking their doors, boarding their windows, and leaving messages of hope and kindness. These temporary shutters — along with highly recommended social distancing efforts and a state ban on gatherings of 10 or more people — have resulted in an Austin that is emptier, to the degree that the city’s notorious traffic jams no longer exist. Eater Austin took to the streets to document this altered landscape, and the ways in which Austin bars and restaurants have responded to the city and state governments’ order to close for the duration.
The downtown dive bar and burger joint Casino El Camino used its boarded-up windows to invoke a British working-class punk rock exclamation.
Along East Sixth Street in downtown Austin, both the Bat Bar and the chicken tender restaurant Happy Chicks have boarded their windows. Where businesses remain open, the Austin Transportation Department has designated empty parking spots as food pickup zones for people looking to place takeout and pick up curbside orders.
The downtown New American restaurant Parkside closed its doors to the public, but its parent company Parkside Projects remains open, using its next-door pizzeria the Backspace to serve half-priced to-go family meals to those in the service industry (as well as to the public).
The Austin-based movie theater and restaurant chain Alamo Drafthouse shuttered almost all of its locations across the country ahead of the mandate, including the Ritz location and its walk-up food window on downtown’s East Sixth Street.
The signage on the East Sixth Street bar Shangri-La notes that the bar is “closed ’till it’s safe to go outside.” Its onsite Cajun truck Baton Creole remains open for takeout services, though people are advised to enter through the back patio.
The East Sixth Street bar and restaurant Ah Sing Den boarded up its windows and doors and left two hopeful messages for passersby: “We Are One World” and “Together We Can Get Through This 6 Feet Apart.” The latter is a reference to the minimum distance recommended by social distancing guidelines.
On Rainey Street, the shuttered beer garden and sausage restaurant Banger’s left a message that both encouraged kindness and directed people to its website.
The Rainey Street Indian restaurant G’Raj Mahal closed its patio and dining room but is still open for takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup orders. Its signage explains the current government orders and warns people to not enter the premises.
Meanwhile, Easy Tiger CEO Mike Stitt and Veronica Bright, a partner in the catering company the Social Table, captured the following video of the scene along East Sixth Street during a drive in the downtown area.