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Old Jovita’s spot owned by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to become apartments

Four-story building with ground-floor retail

Four-story apartment building, modern, flat roof, glass walls facing outward from untis, separated by weathered steel walls and panels
Rendering of planned apartments at old Jovita’s location on South First Street
Courtesy of Bercy Chen Studios

The South First Street property that was home to the wildly popular (and now infamous) restaurant and bar Jovita’s will be developed for a four-story, multifamily building, the Austin Business Journal reported Thursday.

The new building at 1613 and 1615 South First Street will have 41 to 44 apartment units and 8,000 to 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Austin-based Chameleon Companies is developing the property, and local firm Bercy Chen Studio—known for its distinctive buildings, which often involve the use of weathering steel—is the designer.

Jovita’s, which opened in 1992, was a Tex-Mex and live-music mainstay on South First Street that first became known for hosting country music legend Don Walser’s weekly gigs. It closed in 2012 after federal law enforcement raided the establishment to bust a heroin ring, the Austin American-Statesman reported at the time. Owner Amado “Mayo” Pardo died before his trial in 2013, leaving the property ownership in question.

Rodriguez-controlled Chingon International bought the old Jovita’s property in 2016. Chingon Digital, which has the same mailing address as Chingon International, is listed as the owner of the neighboring lot at 1613 South First Street, ABJ reports; it acquired the property in 2014.

Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Spy Kids, Sin City, Machete), a San Antonio native and longtime Austinite, is known for his support of local enterprise, especially music and filmmaking. According to the Journal, he helped Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon, located next to the new project, get off the ground.