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Rainey Street bars on the rise

Entertainment district businesses to expand upward

A one-story wood-frame bungalow with an unpainted picket fence in front. A logo reading “alibi” is painted on the front.
Alibi owners hope to demolish and replace the existing Rainey Street building.

There’s a new twist in the story of the sustained Rainey Street Historic District boom.

Formerly a pocket of affordable, single-family homes on the eastern edge of downtown, the historic area grew and changed along with the rest of central Austin, with restaurants and bars occupying the old bungalows and new hotels and residential towers rising in the spots between.

Now the owners of several of the wildly popular area’s most packed entertainment spots are finding there’s not enough room in their establishments to accommodate all their customers—meaning Rainey’s next phase could be the demolition of some of the older structures and replacement with newer, taller, higher-capacity buildings.

That’s the course the owners of Alibi, one of the area’s most popular bars, hope to take. According to a Wednesday story in the Austin Business Journal, a plan to demolish the bar’s current bungalow at 99 Rainey Street and replace it with a two-story structure is currently under review by city development staff. The proposed new bar, designed by Maker Architects, would be about 29 feet tall, with an area of 7,362 square feet.

In addition, ABJ reports, the owners of Clive Bar, on the southwest corner of Rainey and Davis streets, plan to add a two-story building at the rear of the property, moving the entrance to face Rainey Street. The addition will include a mezzanine between the second floor and the original bar as well as a balcony.

Due to the small lot size in the area, many businesses that want to expand their structures have to build up, rather than out. In addition, plans to demolish or modify of some of the older buildings can be subject to review by the city’s Historic Landmark Commission and staff. The commission has approved the plans for Clive Bar, according to ABJ.

The new Clive design is by North Arrow Studio. Construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

The district’s changing physical profile is an ongoing affair. The official, if purely symbolic, shift away from single-family housing became complete in August, when nightclub entrepreneur Bob Woody purchased the last single-family home standing on Rainey Street.