July 12, 2010

Same Same, but Different

Southtown, San Antonio - Between grad school years one & two I spent the summer (2007) in San Antonio. It was a new town for me, and one of the places where I could always seek refuge from the "housing" I'd been provided during those three months was the Liberty Barlocated in a 121-year old ramshackle two-story building on Josephine Street. You can stretch a limited budget pretty far on Guinness and freshly-baked bread (the latter provided free of charge), which, combined, made the squalor that was my home much more manageable. 

In spite of the fact that everything in the building - from the floors to windows to the walls - was warped (I swear there were spots where if you dropped a marble it would appear to roll up), and that the no-smoking law (of which I remain a steadfast cowardly silent critic) hadn't yet made it, I loved it - Everyone did - just the way it was. Fast forward to spring 2010. 
Over 100 years old & looks every minute of it
- artwork by Vitali Komarov 
It is one of life's enduring mysteries: landlord, owner of a well-placed piece of land, leases to local business. Business thrives on the repeat patronage of locals and visitors alike. From the outside, it appears to be a symbiotic relationship from which everyone prospers. But under the surface, literally under the building, that land becomes far too valuable. It must be sold, and whatever sits atop it must go. Just like the recently ousted 79-year old Jaime's Spanish Village in Austin, another haunt oozing with history and charm, this too would be the fate of our Liberty Bar. 
When rumors surfaced, and soon verified, that it was closing, there was surprise but not shock. Then came the announcement that the restaurant was relocating to King William, a seemingly natural fit, into the old St. Scholastica Convent. Dwight Hobart, the restaurant's owner, donated all of the original chairs and tables to Texas Public Radio for auction (which is great because I get most of my furniture from radio stations anyway), but outside of that they were moving the Liberty Bar "lock, stock, and barrel" into the new/even older building. 

We stopped by the new place three days after the grand opening. A great beer selection, good wine menu, and those deplorable cocktail governors that limit the pour from a bottle all made the move. As did the same rustic bar, the same servers, and the same adventurous menu. Differences abound, to be sure, but comfort can always be found at the bottom of a freshly-squeezed greyhound...  

Let it be said that there are few places in San Antonio more accommodating to diverse and boisterous crowds. There is always a good scene. And dinner or drinks at the Liberty Bar with a group will never disappoint. These are intangibles that will endure, no matter what kind of landscape changes come about. 

More to come soon, mostly photographs, from our brunch at the Convent next week.  

1111 South Alamo Street
San Antonio 78210

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