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Daily Texan: Hole in the Wall back without fuss

Austinites celebrate the reopening of the widely missed music joint

Mu-Ming Chen/Daily Texan Staff

Patrons throw back a few drinks Saturday night at the Hole in the Wall bar. The newly reopened bar features pool tables, shuffleboard, homemade barbecue and restroom walls decorated with the musings of former patrons.

By Lauren Charlip (Daily Texan Staff) June 01, 2003

With no fanfare at all, the Hole in the Wall an Austin live music institution for 28 years reopened its doors in mid-May, after shutting down for almost a year.

"That Friday we realized we had our liquor license, we realized our inspections were done, and we had our permit from the city, and we were like 'Whoah, we're ready,' " new owner Clay McLaughlin said.

The bartenders began to pour drinks, and people drifted in as the word spread that night. "We had a pretty big crowd," McLaughlin said.

Last June, the Hole in the Wall closed its doors when the property went up for sale and the previous bar owner, who had leased the building, was unable to gather the funds to purchase it. McLauglin and his sister Annie, who own Austin's Pizza, along with partner James Cashiola, finalized their purchase of the building in April.

The laissez-faire attitude that characterized opening night reflects McLaughlin's new business plan for the venue.

"We're letting it roll. We're letting the Hole in the Wall be the Hole in the Wall. We're across the street from the largest campus in the country. We shouldn't have a problem selling America's last legal drug."

With little press attention, and no advertising, word has gotten around Austin that this celebrated venue is back, and people are expressing their relief over pitchers of Lone Star.

Buck Vogas, in town for the Republic of Texas biker rally last weekend, made a special trip to the Hole in the Wall. He remembers his days as a regular in the late '70s. "I drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of burgers here," he said. "I remembered the chicken fried steak sandwich. That's what I came in for today."

Indeed, the Hole in the Wall remains largely unchanged. The interior looks as gritty, dark and party-scarred as ever.

Noteworthy are the rolls of paper towels on each of the tables, accessories to the new barbecue menu. The new kitchen is a big, black trailer in the side alley, where owner Cashiola, one-half of world champion barbecue team Texas Original Cookers, houses his pits.

This Thursday will see the return of live music to a place many Austinites believe epitomizes the style and spirit of the local live music scene. According to general manager Matt Allen, a nine-day 30th anniversary bash is in the works for the second week of June. The Hole in the Wall has hosted over 10,000 acts over the years, including Stevie Ray Vaughn, Doug Sahm, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin and Fastball.

The Hole in the Wall has long been popular with the Drag community. "The Hole in the Wall was like the KLRU cafeteria," said Emily Joyce, an assistant producer at the Austin City Limits studio across the street.

Though the kinks in the new operation still have to be worked out, the future looks promising for the Hole in the Wall. "It's probably good for the building that it was closed for a little while. It gave it a little rest," McLauglin said. Here's to more wear and tear.

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