Tuesday April 10, 2012
So Long - Artz Rib House
After a tumultuous final few years, Artz Rib House appears to have closed for good.
The longtime South Austin barbecue restaurant that was known as much for its live music as its thick beef ribs closed its doors on March 19 and filed Wednesday for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which means that the remaining assets of the restaurant will be liquidated to pay its debts.
The bankruptcy filing indicates that the business owes $303,000 in back wages and taxes and has assets of $23,400.
Owner Art Blondin is holding out hope that he can open another restaurant within a month, but on Thursday he said he couldn't reveal details of his plans.
"The customers have been absolutely wonderful. They stuck with us through the hard times. We would not have made it as long as we did if it wasn't for the generosity and hardworking help from all of our customers," Blondin said.
"We've got some options. We're going to be opening up real soon," he said. "We'll be keeping the music alive."
The restaurant at 2330 S. Lamar Blvd. first opened in August 1992. In 2009, he temporarily closed the restaurant when his wife was in the hospital and while he was paying some back taxes. A fundraiser that year helped raise $10,000 to reopen the restaurant, but in 2010, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to reorganize the debt.
Charlie Stewart, who manages a number of bands in Austin and had been going to Artz since 1995, said it was an indispensable venue for his bands when they were just getting started. "That's what was great about them; they were always willing to give new artists a chance," Stewart said. "If you did well on a Tuesday or a Thursday night, you would work up the ranks."
"You could nourish the body and nourish the soul at that place," he said.
Former Austin City Council Member Max Nofziger, who now plays in a band called the Harmony Brothers, said Artz was one of the group's favorite places to play. "It was one of the few places that actually fed you and paid you," he said. "Now where do I go to get barbecue? I haven't had to think about this for 20 years"
"It's awful for Austin; it's awful for the music scene," Nofziger said.
It was a clubhouse for musicians like Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, who had a Monday night residency at the restaurant. Nofziger has known Blondin and his wife, Zenobia Sutton, who put the "z" in Artz, since before the restaurant opened. He even became acquainted with their barbecue before the venue opened, when the couple would cater City Council lunches.
"He took care of the music community for a long time," Nofziger said. "Artz was a funky place, and the infrastructure of funk is being forced out of town." by Addie Broyles