A proposed new residential development project would dramatically change one of Austin‘s core LGBTQ neighborhoods, as reported by the Towers. The proposed plan would build a mixed-use tower from 201 to 213 West Fourth Street, which would demolish several prominent bars on the street, including Oilcan Harry’s, Coconut Club, Neon Grotto and the shuttered Sellers Underground.
In an attempt to preserve the area’s status as a major LGBTQ center in the city, part of the proposal includes creating street-level space for Oilcan Harry’s in the new building with a 25-year lease. years, according to KXAN, and the developers find temporary space for the bar during the construction period, as reported by Community impact. The plans were revealed at the April 11 meeting of the Historic Monuments Commission’s architectural review board.
The current owners of Oilcan released a statement on Instagram on April 11 acknowledging the proposal and the ensuing discussion: “We know Austin is inevitably changing, but we are committed to finding a way to ensure our community on the 4th Street doesn’t get kicked out. Working with developers is crucial.
Behind the project are Houston-based real estate firm Hanover Company and 201/213 West Fourth Street owner Michael Girard, who also operates downtown bar Speakeasy.
Hannover partner David Ott tells KXAN that the project aims to honor the neighborhood’s roots: ‘We are not trying to change the character other than on the masonry facades,’ referring to the facade reconstruction plans warehouse on the new building since it is the Warehouse District.
And while the development would take over the buildings currently housing the Coconut Club and Neon Grotto bars, Girard told KXAN he wants to find new locations for the businesses. Moreover, Girard, who had been working there since before the pandemic, said the companies were aware of these tentative plans and were operating on monthly leases because of them.
There are also plans for a new restaurant and bar with a patio on the corner of the building, as reported by Towers. Ott described the business as a “local chef-led restaurant.”
The plan does not currently impact Oilcan’s neighbor Rain on 4th, another notable gay bar in the area. Then, the proposal will be discussed at the meeting of the Historic Monuments Commission on May 4.
Not everyone or every business is excited about the potential development, which would change the landscape of the downtown area. The Coconut Club Instagram account pokes fun at this restaurant descriptor in their bio. performance artist Katie Drackert (aka KD Kinetic) encouraged people to speak out against the project at the May meeting via email, phone, or in person. Comments on Oilcan Harry’s Instagram post are also skeptical of the project. Council member Kathie Tovo, whose address the district includes, told CBS that many people who were concerned about the project have contacted her. It remains to be seen how the project will ultimately affect the neighborhood.
Co-owner Larry Davis opened Oilcan in 1990 and has become a go-to hub for the gay community. There was a short but messy temporary closure in the fall of 2018.
In LGBTQ bar-related news, in March there was a proposal to demolish the current location of the Iron Bear, which had moved to West Sixth just before the pandemic. This hearing took place in February at the Historic Monuments Commission, but the vote had been postponed to March 28.
Relocating or reincorporating existing restaurants, bars and buildings into new construction projects isn’t new to Austin: A Rainey Street development will demolish the now closed Container Bar and Bungalow, but the owner of the former will operate a bar in the new building. .