FOUNDER OF YARD BAR
By Veronica Meewes
Photos by Brittany Dawn Short
Styled by Carrie Crowe
Photo Shoot at Addie Rose Boutique
When Kristen Heaney often found herself faced with the conundrum of walking her German short-haired pointer mix, Venkman, or meeting her friends for happy hour, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create a place where both people and dogs could gather socially. She left her career in architecture to open Yard Bar in 2015, when there was nothing else like it in this dog-loving city. After some successful pop-ups during the pandemic, she’s brought in The Peached Tortilla’s burger concept Fat City as a permanent fixture, and she is currently scouting for South and East Austin locations for Yard Bar.
What attracted you to the hospitality industry?
“I’m naturally drawn to helping and hosting people. I love to facilitate joyful experiences, whether that’s with my own friends and family, or when meeting new people and collaborating with new teams. I like to make things fun. With Yard Bar, I wanted a place where people and dogs were both enjoying the social experience, meeting new people and new dogs and enjoying good food and drinks — a place where making new friends came easily and you could feel at ease. I’m at my very best when I am helping people feel at home, welcome and comfortable.”
How would you say the industry has changed in the past year?
“The past year took the industry’s Lego model, smashed it to the ground, shattered it into a bazillion pieces and gave us all a unique opportunity to build it back better. It’s given owners a chance to reconsider the value they deliver to the consumer, to test new ideas, to build better teams and systems and to stand up for their values. It certainly confirmed what we already know about the industry — it’s resilient, it finds a way, it supports its colleagues and it never stops serving its community. It also shed light on the fragility of a system built on razor thin margins. I think we’re going to start seeing menu prices more reflective of all the real costs that go into creating a dining experience, and I hope we’ll see more owners working toward living wage models and health care options for their employees. I think that’s the dream for small business owners — create a business that takes care of its team as well as it takes care of its community. That’s my dream, anyway.”
How would you describe your personal style on a day-to-day basis?
“Casual and comfortable. When you own a dog park and bar, you’ve got to be prepared to get dirty. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal. I like to find clean, modern pieces with unique cuts. I’m right at home in a pair of boyfriend jeans and a relaxed-fit crisp white button down.”
Where do you like to shop locally for clothes?
“It’s a real treat to stroll along South Congress these days. After a year of hibernation, it’s been pretty wild to wake up to a new iteration of Austin. I’m enjoying the mix of new shops and restaurants next to vintage Austin favorites.”
Besides clothing, what else makes a fashion statement in Austin?
“Dogs, of course! Dogs are the perfect Austin accessory. They’re the perfect conversation starters.”
What are your favorite and least favorite current fashion trends?
“I’m still leaning into the romper and jumpsuit trends. A well-fitted romper makes looking good seem effortless. I’m definitely a bit tired of the 10” rise jean.”
How would you describe Austin style to someone from out of town?
“Anything goes. Right? Fishing shirts or sequins. Boots or Birks. Hippie or preppy. It’s the mash-up that makes Austin great.”
Describe your perfect Austin day — what would you eat, drink, do and see?
“Hike Turkey Creek with my dog, make breakfast at home, a swim at Barton Springs with friends, a Pool Burger with a Hi Sign Hi-C IPA, a nap and a taping at ACL Live, followed by a late night Côte de Porc and French 75 at Justine’s.”