Innovative Congress Avenue cocktail lounge wants to change bartending forever
Congress Avenue's newest bar will feature the works: an intriguing drink menu, an intimate live performance space, a state-of-the-art sound system and an innovative approach to bartending.
Located in the historic Townsend-Thompson building near the Paramount Theatre, The Townsend hopes to combine a traditional atmosphere with contemporary ideas to create the perfect blend for a unique, downtown cocktail lounge.
Society pays screenwriters, photographers and writers for their original creations — so why not mixologists?
"The vision is a wonderful bar that has exceptional cocktails and very great select drinks mixed with a beautiful space for music, but that can multi-function — it's not just going to be another bar in town," Steven Weisburd tells CultureMap. In addition to being the primary owner and chief visionary, Weisburd provided the inspiration for the most revolutionary aspect at The Townsend: the bar program.
The Townsend's drink menu will feature a rotating lineup of cocktails designed by guest bartenders who will receive royalties for each drink a patron orders. Weisburd points out that our society pays screenwriters, photographers and writers for their original creations — so why not mixologists? The Townsend is the first bar in Austin with this innovative program.
In addition to the rotating cast of guest-created cocktails, The Townsend will feature a standard lineup created by Justin Elliot, the oft-lauded bar manager at qui and former Official Drink of Austin winner. "Justin is coming up with these spectacular cocktails and running all aspects of the bar program. He's a super talent," says Weisburd.
"The goal will always be to have a really beautifully balanced menu with great service," says Elliot. Menu mainstays designed by Elliot will include everything from new signature drinks to playful interpretations of classic cocktails. The most challenging — yet rewarding — drink Elliot is working on is the "house cup," which could be compared to a Pimm's cup on draft.
Equally as important is the bar's role as a music venue. Carefully designed by acoustics expert and project partner Scott Samson, the adjustable sound system can accommodate any kind of show, from a small acoustic set to a loud rock band to a stand-up comedian. The Townsend will also be the home to diverse performance program run by Kathy Valentine, former Go-Go's member and Austin Music Hall of Fame inductee. Complementing the sounds will be a collection of digital artwork that can be rotated to fit the mood of the show.
"The goal is to reflect Austin's history, but look to the future as well," says owner Steven Weisburd.
With all of its innovation, The Townsend is staying connected to its foundation. The Townsend-Thompson building where the bar is located is a historical landmark with a rich history dating back to the 1870s. "The space sings," says Weisburd. "But the space was dying to be refurbished."
As a result, each renovation at The Townsend was designed with the historical elements of the building in mind.
Weisburd hopes that The Townsend will develop a unique vibe, similar to how The Continental Club has its singular Austin flavor. "We like the idea of preserving the legacy, but also building on it — taking it into a new direction," says Weisburd. "The goal is to reflect Austin's history, but look to the future as well."
The bar is still in a renovation phase, but Weisburd confirms that The Townsend is on track to open in April. Management is working on hosting a few special shows during SXSW, so follow The Townsend on Facebook for more updates on the soft opening.