Buzz Mill Shady Location Is Closed
Jason Sabala confirms the East Austin property is for sale
By Kevin Curtin,
9:40AM, Thu. Apr. 23, 2020
Buzz Mill founder Jason Sabala confirmed this week that the business’ latest iteration on East Seventh and Shady Lane will not reopen. Instead the large East Austin property, on which he controls a 10-year lease, has been placed on the real estate market.
The permanent closure and ensuing sale come as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and what Sabala expects to be a long rebound in business. While Austinites have seen, in the last week, a trio of classic Austin spots hoist the white flag – Threadgill’s, Magnolia West, and Fricano's Deli – the termination of Buzz Mill’s east location represents the loss of a new, especially promising business. The project, announced in December 2018 and opened in November of 2019, saw an old bus station transformed into a versatile neighborhood event space.
In its four months of existence, the coffeehouse and bar opened their space up to live music, comedy, and gatherings like the Lone Star Zine Fest opening. The business has long focused on being a community platform as well as an education center with its nature-appreciation and survival training group the Lumber Society – basically Cub Scouts for open-minded adults. Staff had just finished outfitting a proper stage in a secondary building on the property and a third building was set to feature a gym. The compound also featured burgeoning food trucks PlowBQ, PlowBao, and JNL Barbecue.
Sabala estimates it cost $150,000 to renovate and open Buzz Mill Shady, but surprisingly, he says closing it was not a tough decision.
“People think being strong is about how long you can hang on,” Sabala offers, “but I’ve learned that the greater strength is sometimes letting go.”
The former co-owner of Emo’s is effectively releasing Buzz Mill Shady to ensure the preservation of the larger Buzz Mill business. He believes people will make a slow, reticent return to bars post-quarantine and that net revenue will be down for businesses like his. “When we come out of this it’s gonna be weird,” he says. “The first weekend they let everybody loose, yes of course people are going to be drinking and having a great time, but the reality is: Will it be three or four nights a week in the beer halls? No fuckin’ way, and there’s no way are they sitting shoulder-to-shoulder playing board games at the bar.”
“If things didn’t go 100 percent perfect at Shady, it could have sunk the whole thing and all the community work we’ve been doing would be for nothing,” he said. “I want it so that when the smoke clears and people come out of their foxholes, at their own discretion, Buzz Mill will be there for them.”
Sabala, using the Restaurant Realty Group, is selling Buzz Mill Shady fully furnished including concert production equipment, booths, coffee stations, two stages, and the businesses trademark taxidermies.
Meanwhile, he’s consolidating all of his efforts – and food trucks – in the original Buzz Mill on E. Riverside, which is doing walk-up and delivery service. As such, he’s taking on new roles in the business.
“I’m the guy who opened the doors at 5:30am and am making lattes,” he chuckles. “I’ve owned a coffee place for seven years and never had to make a latte until now.”