Grin and bear it
Popular gay dive bar roars into prime new downtown Austin space
Losing a lease is often the death knell for a small business, but one long-running Austin gay club is turning it into an opportunity. Though The Iron Bear is ending its almost nine-year run at 121 W. Eighth St. on January 4, 2020, it will soon reappear in a prime downtown spot — the former home of Austin Ale House at 301 W. Sixth St.
Co-owner Bengie Beshear explains that the watering hole was forced to relocate after its current landlord decided to turn the building into an office complex or sell to developers. While Iron Bear was hoping to be able to remain open at the original address until July, the landlord said the business would have to vacate at the end of January.
The owners, however, found good fortune just a few blocks away. The Austin Ale House space, which was suddenly vacated in August after six years, provides ample square footage, plus its Warehouse District location is closer to the LGBTQ+ nightlife hub on Fourth Street.
Although The Iron Bear owners plan to close on January 4 with a moving party, the reopening date is still up in the air pending the transferral of the liquor license and building inspections.
“If everything goes according to plan, we will open sometime in the week of January 20,” says Beshear. “Fingers crossed!”
The building also happens to have a kitchen. Beshear says that The Iron Bear 2.0 will start off with a small food menu, then gradually expand its selections. Beer-friendly finger foods like fried pickles, wings, and pretzels will be offered along with a “really good burger.”
“We are doing a lot of testing to fine tune what we will be offering. You know bears like to eat, so we are doing a lot of testing,” jokes Beshear.
Despite the major changes, The Iron Bear will continue its mission of being a bear bar that is open to all. The current schedule of weekly and monthly events will resume once the spot is fully operational and Beshear hints that there will be a few surprises in store.
“We also plan to have even bigger and better events then we have ever done before,” he says. “We are very excited by what we are planning.”