Award-winning New York pub brings Irish hospitality to Austin's Sixth Street
Austinites who find themselves wistfully scouring flight deals to Ireland are in for a special surprise later this spring. Hailing from New York, The Dead Rabbit pub is bringing Ireland to Texas, opening a new location in downtown Austin.
The outpost will be The Dead Rabbit's first venture outside New York, where it just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Opened in 2013, the pub takes its name from an Irish gang who lived in the same lower Manhattan neighborhood nearly 200 years prior. Co-founder Jack McGarry had already earned the title of "world's best" for a previous Belfast concept, and The Dead Rabbit has since won eight Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards (including World’s Best Bar, twice, and Best International Bartender for McGarry, who remains the youngest ever recipient).
Now, McGarry hopes to bring that same sense of heritage to Austin, where The Dead Rabbit will be settling into the city's Downtown Historic District. Taking over a space formerly occupied by another Irish pub, the original B.D. Riley's, the concept will open this spring at 204 E. 6th St — a unique corner blending Austin's history (The Driskill Hotel is across the street) with the live music venues and bars along what locals have dubbed "Dirty Sixth."
That unique blend is all part of the plan for McGarry, who connected with CultureMap via email to share the specific qualities he was looking for in an Austin location.
"For us, it’s essential to home The Dead Rabbit in buildings and spaces rich in character and those that effectively represent the rich architectural narrative of the city," he said. "In Austin ... our building showcases the stunning Victorian architecture that dominates the area. [But] the site is also competitive in that it’s highly trafficked and accessible: We’re aware of Sixth Street's difficulties, with many referring to the area as ‘Dirty Sixth.’ Still, we believe the area represents a wonderful opportunity, and Sixth Street has a bright future, with The Driskill Hotel primed for redevelopment after recently being purchased, alongside other efforts to revitalize the area."
For the buildout, McGarry tapped Belfast-based Drinksology design studio, tasking them with a vision to embody and celebrate a modern, vibrant Ireland while reflecting The Dead Rabbit team’s extensive knowledge as the foremost experts in Irish spirits and cocktails.
"We intend to beautifully restore and highlight the store's character by exposing the original beam and brickwork while respectfully integrating the design and pillars associated with The Dead Rabbit," says McGarry.
Also part of the plan was choosing Texas as the first ever outpost outside New York. While the team also has plans to expand to New Orleans later in 2023, Texas was the top priority for expansion:
"The Irish story in Texas and Austin is well documented, going as far back as the 18th century, with Irish people playing a significant role in the state and the city in the preceding centuries," McGarry says. "As a byproduct of the rich Irish heritage in Austin, there is an appreciation of Irish culture through our music, art, food, and drink, which is a critical factor for us. Beyond that, Austin is a dynamic, vibrant, and experience and hospitality-driven city, and we think we can add something unique and highly differentiated, which is telling the story of contemporary Ireland."
Austinites who are eager to get a taste of things to come can do so on January 25, when The Dead Rabbit team joins Nickel City for a special event. Open to the public from 7-10 pm, the event will be a sneak peek of sorts, and a celebration of National Irish Coffee Day. McGarry will be on-site, along with beverage director Aidan Bowie, general manager, Laura Torres, and bar director Ian Alexander.
The Dead Rabbit team will take over a well, and in collaboration with Lost Irish, will serve a selection of cocktails including their famous Irish Coffee, alongside Nickel City’s variation, with $2 of each cocktail going to Heard Austin’s mental health and wellness efforts for the hospitality industry.
"It’s more of a hello to the city," says McGarry ahead of the event, which hopes will "introduce [The Dead Rabbit] to the community with our laid-back Irish hospitality, high-quality drinks, and service standards and signal our intention to be a community-focused company ... To this end, we’re beyond excited to partner with Heard Austin to support their critical work."
McGarry hopes the event will help set expectations for the permanent space, introducing The Dead Rabbit to Austin as "a hospitality-focused company that consistently and excellently serves our TDR hallmarks and ... [while] being a positive and engaged member of the Austin community."