Austin’s legendary Dog and Duck Pub, a downtown oasis for the last 24 years, is closing its doors.
This British-style “ruddy” pub, located at 406 West 17th Street, is due to close on Halloween, a most awful trick on Austin’s lovers of liquid treats. The reason: Dog and Duck’s leaseholder plans to tear the structure down and redevelop the area, like so much else around downtown.
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I arrived on Thursday after news broke that the pub was to close, and I visited with a few of the patrons: A business owner, a banker, a professor, a computer technician, a lawyer, a writer, and a humanitarian activist. I found out that some of these people have known each other for decades and have children the same ages, while others had met at this pub and became best friends or even married. Talking to these strangers on this day in particular was kind of like going to the best family reunion ever.
The next day’s lunch crowd stretched outside the front door. The staff had an amazing rhythm, buzzing around seeming calm and collected while dealing with computer freezes and gobs of people seeking fish and chips with their pint. After the rush, I sat down in the garden and gave a cigarette to a bicyclist, to accompany his beer. Like everyone else, he was talking about all the other well-known Austin venues that have closed down recently. He didn’t really finish though — just sort of stared off pensively, his eyes focused on a crane slowly moving across the skyline.
Before Dog and Duck Pub began doing business in 1990, their building housed a restaurant called Mrs. Robinson’s that opened in the 1970’s. When Dog and Duck first took it over, they opened with three owners. Now just has two: Susan Forester and Jeff McKillop. You can usually find Jeff in Dog and Duck’s corner booth next to the fireplace, either on his laptop or reading a book.
“People that I see everyday are coming up to me and saying, ‘I am really sorry to see this go,’ and I try to stay positive,” Jeff told Austin.com. “Well, it’s not going. We are going to do our best to get it going to another place.”
The owners don’t have another lease signed yet, and they’re still trying to put together the finances to pick up and move a whole restaurant, but Jeff feels confident enough that he’s already started their real estate hunt. “What makes the Dog and Duck is not this building,” he said. “The location has a lot to do with it because we get a really eclectic group of people.”
Despite his confidence, it’s hard not to fall in with the teeming throngs of heartbroken patrons. That still doesn’t stop him from worrying about how he’ll keep everything, and everyone, together between now and their possible reopening date.
But, at least he’s got a good attitude about the dispute with his property owners. “I don’t know how you can fight someone who owns the property, there’s nothing to fight over,” he said. “It’s their property and they can do what they want with it.”
“Ten years from now, 15 years from now, whatever this becomes is going to develop its own traditions, places they like to go,” Jeff said. “They’re going to grow up here and that happens every generation. I’m sad to see [Dog and Duck’s location] go, of course. Change is inevitable and you can’t lose yourself in the change. You have to change with it.”
Video by Stephanie Vela Anderson.
Music: “SOLO ACOUSTIC GUITAR” by Jason Shaw, creative commons licensed.