Exclusive: Founders of Esther’s Follies buy back the historic Tavern on Lamar Boulevard

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Esther’s Follies co-founders Shannon Sedwick and Michael Shelton purchased the historic Tavern (922. W. 12th St.) last week from brothers Ellis and Austin Winstaley. The couple, who met while performing in a rock musical at the University of Texas in 1968, opened their popular comedy theater downtown in 1977 and owned and operated the Tavern from 1979 to 1981, with Shelton renovating the historic building.

The Tavern located at 12th and Lamar. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Sedwick and Shelton, who founded the legendary Liberty Lunch and also own Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe, intend to update the menu under the guidance of Three Little Pigs owner and former Jeffrey’s chef Raymond Tatum (who has also made changes at Patsy’s) and say they have touch-ups but not major changes in store. In addition to menu changes from Tatum (think pork belly sliders and his famous meatloaf), the new/old owners also plan to introduce live music from singer-songwriter types in the upstairs space. The Tavern will remain open during the changes, and Sedwick expects the menu to evolve over the coming months.

“We are excited to have the Tavern back and want to preserve its legacy as one of Austin’s first watering holes, while bringing some new energy to the food and look of the place, to bring it into the contemporary bar scene. No frills, just bringing back its glory,” Sedwick said.

Michael Shelton and Shannon Sedwick are the new owners of The Tavern. (Alberto Martinez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 102-year-old building, which began as a grocery, was originally designed by German native Hug Kuehne, who modeled it after the public houses of Europe, according to the Tavern’s website. The Winstaleys, who also own El Arroyo, Hill’s Cafe, Star Seeds Cafe, Abel’s on the Lake and Cain and Abel’s, bought the Tavern from Bob Cole in 2013.


Author: Matthew Odam

Restaurant critic & features writer at Austin American @Statesman and @Austin360. Austin-born 6th generation Texan. Left-handed.

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