If researchers were looking to do a case study of Austin’s recent hospitality industry woes, there’s no better area to examine than South Lamar Boulevard. Over the past few years, the strip has been the epicenter of a wave of shutters, claiming restaurants like Lucy’s on the Fly, Backbeat, and La Feria — not to mention the multiple ill-fated concepts at Lamar Union.
Now Lamar has claimed another victim. On August 23, WhichCraft owner Jody Reyes announced that the original location of WhichCraft will close on September 22. Opened in April 2014 at 2110 S. Lamar Blvd., the bottle shop quickly became a favorite of Austin’s beer nerd set for its encyclopedic selection of national and international brews and its highly knowledgeable staff.
In a statement, Reyes blamed zoning as the main reason for the shutter. Unlike the second location, which opened in the Mueller development in November 2016, the South Austin store was not allowed to add draft beer to the offerings, as rules prohibited on-premise consumption.
“The bottle shop-only model is not part of our future plans, as having draft beer not only gives people more reasons to visit, but also offers more choices for our customers,” said Reyes. Although the WhichCraft team worked with their landlord and the city to affect a rule change, it soon became clear that nothing would budge.
Going forward, the shop will focus on the model set by its Mueller outpost at 1900 Simond Ave. Ste. 200. That store supplements the bottled craft beer selection with about 30 taps, a full coffee program, a selection of light snacks, and seating in which to enjoy all of the above. Reyes said they are currently scouting for the next locations for WhichCraft 2.0.
While Reyes did not elaborate further on closure reasons past the zoning issue, issues like ballooning commercial rents and a lack of parking have troubled the area once known for its affordable apartments and funky assortment of restaurants and shops. The changing demographics of the area has also not been kind to beer-based businesses. Popular Tampa, Florida-based chain World of Beer lasted less than a year at its first Austin outpost near Broken Spoke.