Austin Style: Garage
Park and Party – Pull into this new craft cocktail lounge
by Jaime Netze
Photographs by Bill Sallans
The owners of new craft cocktail spot Garage William Ball, Bron Hager, and Connor Oman go way back—ball and Oman are cousins, and as boys, the three roamed the same Austin streets together. But opening Garage marks their first business venture together. “First of many together,” Connor Oman clarifies with a chuckle.
Ball, Hager, and Oman feel so confident about their new bar’s success in part because of its unusual home: Garage is indeed nestled in a parking garage of a midcentury 5th Street building. “We want to respect the aesthetic of the building, and the story of it,” Oman says. “We want it to be kind of funky—we hope it’ll look like it was a lounge in 1954, when the building was built.”
The story of the building and the bar space is a fun one: Garage’s new home was once the valet office for the building. When Oman, Ball, and Hager found the space, it was being used for storage. But they saw something much more in it. “It’s such a cool and unique space,” Oman says. “It’s this funky little glass and brick box just tucked back in a parking garage. We thought, jazz lounge, cocktail lounge. That’s what it had to be—the space dictated the business.”
Oman explains that Garage space was the heart of the building: “Everyone entering the building came through this office and exited through this office,” Oman says. “The parking garage itself is a double-helix, and at the center in the bottom of the helix was this box. There were firemen’s poles that the valets used to slide down, and a lift that took them up where they’d hop off and drive down.”
Though the poles are long-gone, the spirit and history still permeate the space with charm. “It’s not some gimmicky 1950s themed bar,” says Bron Hager. “We have an elegance and beauty that not many spaces are able to accomplish simply because the history’s not there. If you look at Whislers, that’s also a wonderful space because of its history. That’s what this bar has going for it—the sense of space is tremendous.”
Garage will host jazz trios, spin only vinyl, and serve signature craft cocktails from a menu designed by Chauncy James, previously of the East Side Showroom. There will be the occasional live jazz trio and late-night DJ set, too. “I think you’re going to feel immediately once you walk into the space like you’re home,” Hager says. “We’re at the heart of downtown Austin and in the middle of the financial district, where at the moment things are all kind of the same. This [Garage] is a new gem.”
Plus, Hager adds with a laugh, there’s plenty of parking.