“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Maybe someone should put a sign on top of the Lamar Union warning future tenants. The newish development has had a tough run. First Cantine closed after about a two-year run. In recent months El Burro from the Vox Table team closed, lasting only six months. And now the market, beer-and-wine bar and deli Delicious has closed. Though its Facebook post notes the closure is temporary, the store, owned by Live Oak Market operator Raj Singh, had a clearance sale over the weekend. We will keep you posted as things develop.
The Lamar Union complex has become emblematic of the difficulty many mixed-use developments have in fostering successful ground-floor restaurants and retail. If you want a striking example, just look at Shake Shack. I’d never seen a Shake Shack without a line until this one came along. I would wager it has one of the lowest sales-per-square foot operations of any Shake Shack in the country (and local drive-thru P.Terry’s has to be at least one reason why), though the company, unlike the small businesses that have opened at the Lamar Union, has enough money to throw at what must be fairly steep rents.
With Lamar (like many of Ausitn’s major thoroughfares) not being a huge foot-traffic zone, due in part to a car culture; along with high rents; some misreading of the market by operators; crowds flowing into the Drafthouse to see movies and eat dinner; and Austinites unaccustomed (or not interested in) slowing down on a fast street to find parking in a garage and then making the walk back to a restaurant (shorter version: Austinintes like lots from which you can see the front door), the math seems to have been stacked against Lamar Union thus far, though Caffe Medici and the Alamo Drafthouse probably aren’t complaining.
Of course, Lamar Union is not unique in its struggle to adapt to changing Austin. The growing pains are evident everywhere, as our town attempts to become a city. Amidst all the closures at Lamar Union, the Austin Business Journal reported last week that TA Realty, which recently bought the Oaks at Lakeway, has purchased the entire complex, which from Greystar Real Estate Partners. As the ABJ noted, the Travis Central Appraisal District most recently valued the development at almost $150 million.
A sushi restaurant from the family who owns Northwest Austin restaurant Soto plans to open in the former Cantine space later this year, and seafood-centric TLC from the owners of J. Black’s will go in at the end of the driveway across from the Alamo Drafthouse (which may prove to be a slightly more advantageous spot despite the lack of curb appeal from Lamar). We will see if they can stem the tide.