As many Austin-area restaurants continue to struggle with the most appropriate — and safest — way to serve customers amid the coronavirus pandemic, one decades-old local pizzeria is embracing a somewhat grave scheme.
The Parlor, a family-owned eatery and bar in Hyde Park known for its playful irreverence, has welcomed to its parking lot an assemblage of coffins to act as “festive outdoor seating” and encourage diners to keep their distance while noshing a slice.
“We’ve always been kind of a spooky rock-’n’-roll, punk-rock place,” says bar manager Marcos Lujan, noting that the idea to employ coffins as a social distancing tool was something owner Deb Gill dug up with a buddy.
“Our owner is friends with a custom coffin maker. I’m imagining he had a plethora of coffins laying around. We started opening up our parking lot for outdoor dining and added tables and umbrellas. And we were trying to block off the parking lot. We wanted something cooler than rope … so we just thought it would be cool to put coffins down here instead.”
Though the coffins were hauled into The Parlor parking lot before Halloween, Lujan says they’ve been a hit with customers and that their usefulness extends beyond the holiday, with the pizzeria likely keeping the creepy caskets around for another month or two. The Parlor, which regularly hosts art shows in non-pandemic times, even plans to invite some local artists to make their creative marks on the coffins in the coming weeks. Lujan predicts skulls will be a popular motif.
For pizza fanatics who prefer indoor dining and the chance to get their mitts on The Parlor’s prized pinball machines, pool table, and eccentric jukebox, The Parlor recently added its VIP — aka very intimate Parlor — experience, which allows customers to reserve blocks of time to eat inside the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights without having to worry about other diners dropping in. (Mask are required when customers are not at their tables.)
Also a champion of local musicians and known for its legendary live-music Saturday matinees, The Parlor has had to scale back its live shows during the pandemic, but will host its first socially distanced live performance in its newly coffined parking lot when local artist Scott H. Biram performs during a ticketed show on November 7.