Essential cocktail bar Midnight Cowboy, one of the city’s first real speakeasies, is now under new ownership. Founders Tim League and Karrie League of Alamo Drafthouse have sold the 313 East Sixth Street business to bar management company FBR, as originally reported by Austin 360. The deal went down on December 31, 2021.
Midnight Cowboy took the art of drinking seriously, offering classic drinks in an elegant space (formerly a massage parlor) and top-notch service (tableside cocktails). Entry involved a nondescript door and signage (neon declaring “Midnight Cowboy Modeling”), and a system involving buzzing a not-clearly-marked entrance button. Reservations were always required with time limits, and there was a ban on cell phones.
The Leagues opened Midnight Cowboy in 2012, under the direction of then-Alamo beverage director Bill Norris and then-manager Brian Dressel. Alumni include Tacy Rowland, Robert Björn Taylor, and Michael Phillips, among numerous others.
FBR, under co-founders Max Moreland and Matt Luckie, is known for taking over the operations of and revamping existing important Austin bars. There’s Mean-Eyed Cat (which opened in 2004, with FBR taking over in 2013) and Lala’s Little Nugget (opened 1972, and FBR entered the picture in 2015). Also under the company’s umbrella are Stagger Lee (in the old No Va restaurant space on Rainey), DuMont’s Down Low (in the basement of the old Fado’s Irish Pub), Lavaca Street Bars, Star Bar, Gibson Street Bar, the Wheel, and Graceland Grocery.
“The painful truth is that as we are reemerging from the setbacks of COVID with a much smaller, leaner team,” explains the Leagues over email, “and we no longer have the bandwidth to properly support the development and operation of Midnight Cowboy.”
During this time, Midnight Cowboy has remained open. Current bar manager Brittany McMillan will stay in place, as the publication reported. Eater has reached out for more information.
Similar to Midnight Cowboy, Alamo Drafthouse shuttered its flagship theater, the Ritz, which was across the street from the bar, officially in March 2021, as the chain filed for bankruptcy.
Update, January 14, 5:36 p.m.: This article, originally published on January 5, has been updated to include further comments.