The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2012

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A LONE STAR LIFE Born Again R ainey Street is old Austin. Rainey Street is the future of Austin. Rainey Street is a paved thoroughfare and a historic district near downtown. Nobody lives on this tree-lined street of bungalows and Victorian homes, but it's crammed with people every night. What the hell's going on here? "I think Rainey Street is uniquely Austin and an expansion of the Austin experience," says Bridget Dunlap, owner of Lustre Pearl, the Rainey Street bar that started this whole mishigas. "The city had been trying to revitalize this neigh- borhood for a long time, but when I first drove through, it all looked like s***. There were mattresses in the alley, drugs being sold. At Lustre Pearl, we had to kick out the homeless." But that didn't deter her. Though diminutive in stature, Dunlap has an outsized business acumen, not to mention a mouth like a seasoned sailor. More importantly, she's got the iron will to get things done—and get them done her way. It's a pioneer spirit—which makes sense because Dunlap is the pioneer of Rainey Street's transformation. And hav- ing already created the successful Pearl Bar in her native Houston, she knew right away that Rainey Street could be reinvigorated. In addition to opening Lustre Pearl in 2009, Dunlap added Clive Bar and Bar 96 the next year. And while others jumped in, too, helping to renew this neighborhood from its former crumbling appearance, Dunlap says at first she wasn't that popular. 82 / the tasting panel / october 2012 It's good work if you can get it. And if not, Austin bar impresario Bridget Dunlap says, "You have to make it happen, dammit!" BRIDGET DUNLAP SPARKS AUSTIN'S RAINEY STREET REVIVAL by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle "The various neighborhood committees and councils were pretty upset at the beginning. Figuring out parking, street lights, sidewalks—that was all supposed to be on my shoulders," Dunlap tells me. "No one likes change. And I was the first to come in here and change something. The first person always gets the s***." That's all changed now. Dunlap's foray onto Rainey Street helped to preserve the bungalows and Victorian homes. Many of them have been reborn as urban honky-tonks, sports bars, hipster cocktail lounges and just plain old laid- back watering holes. And more venues are coming to Rainey Street, including Dunlap's current projects, Container Bar (being constructed with shipping containers) and an (as yet) unnamed restaurant. Although not nearly as well-known as Austin's Sixth Street and Warehouse Districts, Rainey Street continues to expand its offerings while building a large and faithful follow- ing—most especially among Austinites, who appreciate the preservation efforts as well as the new funky neighborhood vibe. Indeed, Rainey Street is old Austin and Rainey Street is the future of Austin. "Maybe it was the timing," Dunlap muses about her achievements. "Maybe it was just my time. Or maybe I just paid my f****** dues. I don't like to take all the credit because I don't know why this is so successful. But I'm grateful for however I got here."

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