New York Irish pub The Dead Rabbit is opening in downtown Austin at 204 East Sixth Street this fall.
Dead Rabbit co-founder Jack McGarry doesn’t think of it as a New York bar. Rather, to him, it’s an Irish bar that happens to be in New York. And it’s that mentality that led him and the team to want to expand the bar into other cities.
“It became about spreading our love of the Irish pub and challenging the misconceptions around Irish culture,” McGarry tells Eater. “For a lot of Americans, when you say ‘Ireland’ to someone, they think of a shamrock, Dropkick Murphys, or Saint Patrick’s Day.” He and his team (which included co-founder Sean Muldoon until he left the business to open a Charleston bar; both McGarry and Muldoon are from Belfast) wanted to get away from the typical idea of the gimmicky New York Times Square Irish pub and bring that ethos to new places.
“We wanted to make sure we were going into cities that had an appreciation of Irish culture, a strong Irish narrative built into the city, a prevalence of Irish pubs, and Irish-related cultural aspects,” McGarry says.
First, in 2019, Dead Rabbit announced its plans to open in New Orleans. But due to renovations to the space, the bar’s projected opening has been delayed to 2024. So in the meantime, the team began looking at other cities, and Austin made sense.
At the time, longtime downtown Austin Irish bar B.D. Riley’s closed its original location on East Sixth. Co-owners founder John Erwin and managing partner Steve Basile opened the bar in 2000, and 20 years later amid the pandemic, they decided to not renew their lease at the historic Hannig Row building (its Mueller location is still open). When the vacated bar space became available, McGarry was interested. “It’s very much a pub of what I would say is yesterday’s Ireland as opposed to tomorrow’s Ireland,” he says. “So I’m very excited that we’re picking up and carrying it forward.” They plan on erecting a plaque honoring B.D. Riley’s legacy in the location.
Dead Rabbit’s Austin menu will include Irish pub foods like lamb stews, fish and chips, and corned beef hash, as well as Irish drinks, of course. McGarry refers to Dead Rabbit’s “trifecta,” which are Guinness, Irish whiskey, and Irish coffee. There will be nods to Austin, which are being determined. There’s also a plan to partner with San Antonio-based food and drink industry mental health nonprofit Heard.
Ahead of the eventual opening, Dead Rabbit will be previewing its food and drinks at the Music From Ireland showcase during South by Southwest this week. The Full Irish Breakfast event, which includes a full bill of Irish bands, takes place on Saint Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. and it’s open to badgeholders.
And Dead Rabbit is still open to expanding elsewhere. Other cities McGarry mentions include Nashville, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta, but it wholly depends on what type of space and building is available.