92 days after news of its imminent sale first broke, Deep Eddy Cabaret finds itself under new ownership. Tuesday afternoon, Will Bridges confirmed to the Chronicle that he and his father hold a 50/50 freehold on the West Austin bar, effective last Friday. Prior to the sale, it had been in the Hickman family since opening in 1951.
Bridges, 32, currently a partner at both Lamberts Downtown and Arlyn Studios in South Austin, and his father, Robert Bridges, M.D., a retired cardiovascular surgeon, purchased the longstanding Lake Austin Blvd. watering hole after seven months of conversations with Butch and Patti Hickman, who had assumed ownership of the bar in 1991 when Butch’s mother passed away. He said the Hickmans have been looking for a successor for the bar “for a number of years,” citing their current residence nearly an hour and fifteen minutes west of Austin, outside Gonzales, Tex., and that their call inquiring about his interest came at the behest of Rick Wallen, a longtime associate of the bar.
If the fallout from January’s report that Deep Eddy ownership was changing hands is any indication, news of its materialization is sure to set off a litany of public fireworks about the presupposed downfall of another iconic Austin institution.
Bridges did his best to quell those concerns Tuesday, saying that all seven of the bar’s employees – the least tenured of which has worked there 13 years – will continue working at Deep Eddy, and that he has no immediate plans to change any specific aspect of the bar.
“The plan is to keep Deep Eddy what it always has been,” he said, suggesting that may mean different things to different people. “There’s an unrealistic sense of nostalgia that asks we just time capsule things. That’s not a very fair assessment of the integrity or spirit of the place. Deep Eddy today is not exactly like it was in 1951. It had to dip and dive and fight and scratch to do everything it could to survive for those 63 years. To keep everything exactly the same and prohibit the business from dipping and diving and and biting and scratching for another 63 years, to me, that would be the true detriment.”
Bridges did, however, mention that he does plan to look into ways to “utilize the property better,” making mention of the house in the back of the property and the carport between that space and the house. He also said that he could see the beer and wine bar opening up to hard alcohol at some point, as well as abandoning its antiquated cash-only policy to accept credit cards, though he doesn’t plan to be autonomous with any of those decisions.
“I told everybody there that I wasn’t going to make any assumptions about what was best for the bar,” he said. “I would be a total fool to come in and tell these people who’ve been here 13 years how to run their bar.”
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