Change is brewing

New owner gets party started again after iconic Austin beer drive-thru shutters

New owner gets party started after iconic Austin drive-thru shutters

Party Barn sign
Bringing the party back. Party Barn/Facebook

The doors of Party Barn — a familiar Austin fixture for thousands of University of Texas students and alumni — are swinging open again. Austin realtors/real estate developers Meador Hall and Robert Ellis are resurrecting the iconic drive-thru beer and wine business, which is set to reopen August 20 following its March closure.

Through a company called 512 Party Barn LLC, Hall and Ellis are buying Party Barn’s business operations, along with the distinct red barn-like structure at 3300 Guadalupe St. and the land underneath it. Hall tells CultureMap exclusively that he and his business partner plan to relaunch Party Barn with a few relatively minor changes. Hall and Ellis expect to wrap up the purchase August 10.

“Party Barn has continued to be a major part of the Austin community,” Hall tells CultureMap. “With the location and with the drive-thru and with the reputation, it’s a unique business opportunity that doesn’t come along very frequently.”

Hall says the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the health problems of business owner Steve Keithley, prompted the shutdown of Party Barn in late March. When a deal fell through to sell the property to a condo developer, Austin-based Treble Enterprises Inc., owner of the Guadalupe Street building and land, approached Hall in late May about buying the entire Party Barn package.

Before shuttering, Party Barn — established in 1970 — sold beer, wine, champagne, soda, juice, ice, snacks, and other items. But its specialty was keg beer, purchased primarily by UT students and corporate clients. Hall says Party Barn’s offerings will remain mostly the same, although he does want to put more of an emphasis on craft beers. Party Barn plans to hire a full-time manager and three 30-hour-a-week workers to staff the store, as well as seasonal help.

Hall says the biggest visible changes that customers will notice are spruced-up signage, a freshly painted exterior (still sporting the trademark red color), a tidied-up interior, and new refrigeration coolers and other equipment. Perhaps most noteworthy is that the revived Party Barn will introduce online ordering.

“There’s nothing different about the building. The building is the same as it’s always been,” Hall says. “We’re trying to keep an Austin icon as it has been for over 40 years.”

Although he and Ellis are real estate developers, Hall says they have no intention of converting the property for a condo building or any other type of real estate project.

“Saving a business feels really good,” Hall says. “I want it to stick around and I want it to be a part of Austin as long as I’m around, and hopefully that’s for a while. I’m only 39.”