All-hours institution Magnolia Cafe is closing its 2304 Lake Austin Boulevard location permanently, as announced on Facebook, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The South Congress location is still expected to reopen whenever the dining room ban lifts in Austin, which would be Friday, May 8 at the earliest.
“In the face of such a huge hit with the reality of COVID-19 and the incredible uncertainty,” read the Facebook notice from Magnolia Cafe, “we’ve had to confront the fact that this location will not survive.”
Both locations of Magnolia had already closed temporarily ahead of the city of Austin’s official order in mid-March halting dine-in service at restaurants. Businesses were allowed to stay open for delivery and takeout service, but Magnolia opted not to.
As many restaurants across the city and country shuttered their dining rooms in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, these businesses have struggled to pay rent, taxes, utilities, and their employees without their expected revenue streams. Others are staying open for allowed takeout and delivery service for some profit, but it usually isn’t enough to pay the bills.
Originally, the Lake Austin location of Magnolia had opened as a different restaurant in 1979. It functioned as the second location of The Omelettry — called Omelettry West — by Kenny Carpenter with partners Kent Cole and Patricia Atkinson. Carpenter had opened the first Omelettry on Burnet Road in 1978. Atkinson later left to open Kerbey Lane Cafe in 1980 and Cole bought the address from Carpenter, turning it into Magnolia Cafe in 1986. The South Congress restaurant opened in 1988.
This is also the Magnolia location that President Barack Obama visited in 2014, where he drank tea and met with a University of Texas Austin student. The diner is known for its 24/7 hours and its array of Texan and breakfast dishes, from the pancakes to migas to the Mag Mud queso.
The Shutter Announcement From Magnolia Cafe
A note from the owners of the Cafes:
Kent started the Magnolias in 1979 on Lake Austin Boulevard, back then known as the Omelettry West. Many of you remember us from back in those days, the staff taking two minute breaks from service to sing together in the dining room and serving up the pancakes and eggs that have been our staples for years.
In the past few years, we’ve seen so many of you regulars at the West. Many of them the children and some of them the grandchildren of our original customers. We’ve had a great team there who we’re proud of, and we’ve done big improvements to the building and our facilities. However, things have been slowing down there for the past few years. In the face of such a huge hit with the reality of Covid-19 and the incredible uncertainty of the future, we’ve had to confront the fact that this location will not survive.
Magnolia Cafe Lake Austin had a great forty one years offering our fare, our style and, most importantly, a place for people from the neighborhood and from all over the world to come together and do what people do best - have a meal and talk to each other. And we, our family and all the staff and management through the years got to do what makes people their best - take care of other people.
To our neighbors and loyal customers of that location for so many years, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The West is where we’re from. Y’all are where we are from. We couldn’t have done it without you, and now we hope all you north of the river folks cross one of the handy bridges and head up the hill to our location on South Congress for your T. Rex omelette, your jalapeño cheese burger, your gingerbread pancakes, your Love Veggies, your Mag Mud, your Pasta Alfredo, your Magnolia brownie. We hope to reopen the South Congress location when it is safe to do so.
We would love to hear your stories of the West. We know so many of y’all raised your families here, met your sweethearts here, saw old friends and made new ones as well. Please share your stories and photos if you would like at magnoliacafeaustin at gmail dot com.
Thank you, Austin. Thank you world.