My Rainey Street

Rainey Street has been a great adventure for me.

Opening Lustre Pearl, my first Austin bar, named after my childhood alter ego, was a huge move. She allowed me to move to Austin with my son and start a whole new phase of my life. I loved Austin and had lived here off and on for years. I was ready to live here again.

Lustre Pearl was not only kind of a reinvention of my own life, but also of the Rainey Street neighborhood. Like it or not, the neighborhood was destined for big changes. Whether I had come in first like I did and got the ball rolling by opening my bars or the developers had come in to build more condos and hotels back in 2009, the neighborhood was slated for change. Something was going to happen there, and I was willing to take a risk and get it started when others shied away. The truth is, that neighborhood had fallen into massive disrepair and really needed some TLC when I arrived. Nobody would deny that.

Shown left to right: Container Bar, Clive Bar, Bar 96, and Lustre Pearl. All designed to capture the funky and carefree Austin vibe.

Shown left to right: Container Bar, Clive Bar, Bar 96, and Lustre Pearl. All designed to capture the funky and carefree Austin vibe.

Shown left to right: Container Bar, Clive Bar, Bar 96, and Lustre Pearl. All designed to capture the funky and carefree Austin vibe.

Shown left to right: Container Bar, Clive Bar, Bar 96, and Lustre Pearl. All designed to capture the funky and carefree Austin vibe.

Shown left to right: Container Bar, Clive Bar, Bar 96, and Lustre Pearl. All designed to capture the funky and carefree Austin vibe.

“Lustre Pearl was not only kind of a reinvention of my own life, but also of the Rainey Street neighborhood.”
-BRIDGET DUNLAP

I recognized the charm and potential of these great old homes and saw part of the vibe that made Austin special. I felt a sense of tenderness for the place right away. I also noticed The Four Seasons around the corner and other development in the neighborhood that made it a good business decision. The way we designed Lustre Pearl, then Clive Bar, Bar 96, and now Container Bar was intended to capture some of that Austin atmosphere, the funkiness and carefree vibe I loved.

When Lustre Pearl opened, it felt like it had always been there, that it belonged in Austin.
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Many lifelong Austinites confirmed that in those early days. The city opened its arms to us, and Lustre thrived. We were off and running, and Rainey Street started to flourish in its new role as an entertainment district. These past five years have been a whirlwind down there; we paved the way and the city responded favorably. It has been great—and, at times, difficult and challenging.

The closing of Lustre Pearl brings in a new era.

Of course I am sad to see her go. She was the cornerstone of the Rainey Street entertainment district and meant so much to me. Seeing her go pulls at my heart strings. I wish I could somehow save her, preserve her where and how she is, or was.

At the end of the day, it was a business decision, and the developers already had their stake in that land. We all have to accept change in our lives.

“She was the cornerstone of the Rainey Street entertainment district…I wish I could somehow save her.”
-BRIDGET DUNLAP

Clive, Bar 96, and Container Bar will still have a home on Rainey Street. We are really proud of our restaurant on the east side, Mettle, and we were only able to open that due to our Rainey Street success. That is another sign of what is exciting about Austin right now. Austin is attracting a new batch of talented chefs, like our own Andrew Francisco at Mettle. So the change brings new benefits, new talent, and new opportunity to the city, even though we may all feel growing pains during the transition.

Lustre Pearl will rise again, too. She will be in a different place and will not be exactly the same ever again, but that appears to be the way things are going in Austin. Change is inevitable, and we all have to stay alert and aware and try to grow with the city while keeping what we can of what we love about Austin.


Writing by Bridget Dunlap


This article originally published in The Balance Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine [May/June 2014].
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