Bar Swap

East Austin bar closes and another takes over in surprising switch-up

East Austin bar closes and another takes over in surprising switch-up

Rio Rita Lounge bar Austin East Sixth
Badlands is closing at 1203 Chicon St. and Rio Rita Lounge is moving in. Rio Rita/Facebook

An East Austin bar swap is brewing. Badlands, the dive bar, music venue, and gourmet hot dog spot at 12th and Chicon streets, is closing at the end of the month. East Sixth Street staple Rio Rita Lounge will move in.

After three years at 1203 Chicon St., Badlands is looking to relocate when its lease expires on September 30. Owners Shane and Shannon Howard, who also operate neighboring businesses the Romani Gallery and Mystery City Tattoo, took to Facebook to announce the situation.

"It is with deep sadness that we must announce that Badlands will [close] its current location. This is not a choice we make voluntarily, but one that has been forced upon us," reads the statement.

According to the Facebook post, after renegotiating a renewal with landlord Jim Daywood at "almost three times the current rate," the Badlands team received notice that all three properties will be leased to Randall Stockton, owner of Rio Rita, King Bee Lounge, Beerland, and more.

"For now, we are being forced to cancel or postpone all scheduled events until a new location can be secured. We will be contacting promoters and artists about their events as soon as possible. We would like to thank you in advance for your patience as we have a full calendar through December." 

Stockton confirmed with CultureMap that Rio Rita will move into the Badlands space. A post on via Facebook cites being priced out of East Sixth Street.

"While we would prefer to stay put, we can't afford to stay. Luckily, we have a new location. Unfortunately, our mixed good fortune comes amidst others' misfortune," reads the Facebook post..

Stockton maintains that he reached out to the Badlands team to see if he could move Rio Rita into the space, but they declined the offer. Stockton says he was later contacted by landlord Daywood and told that Badlands had not renewed the lease. "The landlord planned to lease them all together [Badlands, the Romani Gallery, Mystery City Tattoo, and King Bee] to one party for one price," says the statement.

"So, rather than risk losing the chance to renew the lease at King Bee, rather than risk an opportunity to save Rio Rita (my wife's favorite), rather than risk losing the 25 employees for whom I feel ultimately responsible, I said yes," says the post. "I am hopeful that Badlands succeeds in securing their new location and continues to thrive and provide a much needed space for all who love it."

Rio Rita will move to 1203 Chicon St. in mid-November; Stockton says that a closing date for the East Sixth Street spot has not been determined. There is no word yet on where Badlands plans to relocate; a request for comment has not been returned.