The Incredible Transformation of the Half Step Bar

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Today I’m here with the owner of the Half Step Bar, Chris Bostick, to discuss the incredible transformation of a run-down crack house into one of the most popular cocktail bars in the nation.

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Fifteen years ago, Rainy Street was full of hundred-year-old bungalows that were falling down. In the last couple of years, this unique part of town has been transformed into what’s now a cultural hotspot here in Austin.

Rainy Street’s transformation made way for a friend of mine, Chris Bostick, to create the Half Step Bar. Today, I’m at the bar with Chris to talk about the story of how he took one of Rainy Street’s dilapidated bungalows and quickly turned it into what is considered one of America’s top cocktail bars.

Why did he decide on this area?

Even back then, Chris predicted that this area was going to blossom due to factors like the South by Southwest conference, and the progression of drinking culture in the area. These key indicators told him that the property might be worth taking a gamble on.

Before the Half Step Bar was born, there were a few bars in the area already. The property that now houses the bar, according to Chris, was once a crack house. Looking back six years ago when he began renovating it, it’s amazing to see how far this place has come.

Austin is a central area for nightlife, which naturally attracts a lot of bars, but Half Step has become one of the top bars not just in the area, but in the nation. So what sets them apart?

Through the Half Step Bar, Chris has found the ability to bring together two worlds that he’s lived in: one with nicer, upscale cocktail bars, and the other with live music clubs. The marriage of those two atmospheres allowed the business to evolve and become a unique presence in a city known for its live music scene.

They have both an indoor stage and an outdoor stage for musicians, they serve incredible cocktails, and they have an awesome ice program—none of it is meant to be precious, but rather fun and relaxed. Half Step is the kind of place, Chris says, where he would want people to bring their parents to show off. The fact that they’re able to foster community, pay artists, and have regular showcases suggests to Chris that Austin doesn’t want to lose its artists. It’s great that Austin is growing and that property values are rising, but Chris maintains that we should all do our part to support the local artists and musicians that have helped make Austin what it is today.

And he’s right—though Austin is popular, there is an issue with affordability for artists, and a lot of times, they can’t even afford to stay here in the city they helped to make popular. It’s really nice that there are people like Chris out here. As he says, “You don’t want to kill the golden goose.”

As a real estate agent, I always notice little architectural details in the bar that I find really cool, like burnt slats, shiplap, and vintage tin ceilings. Chris says that the original property was pretty run-down and required pretty much a full remodel. He left the front facade and the north elevation standing, and to honor the original structure, he left some of the original shiplap. The tin in the ceilings came from an architectural salvage yard, and he traded cash and a beer tab for a beadboard that came from a house nearby. Some of the new elements he brought in were chosen to prevent the home from looking like a “Disney-esque replica.” He wanted the aesthetic to convey warmth, vibrancy, and soul.

Chris maintains that we should all do our part to support the local artists and musicians that have helped make Austin what it is today.

At Half Step, the ice is nice; it’s a big part of what they do for their drinks at the bar. If you think of ice as taking up a quarter or a third of the cocktail, when it starts to melt, the quality of the water and temperature the ice helps to regulate become as important to consider as the alcohol itself. They’ve become well-known for their large, clear cubes of ice, which cool more of the drink per their surface area. These cubes are also quite dense, meaning they dilute the drink at a slower rate, providing for a consistent drinking experience.

Chris’ attention to detail is apparent in all aspects of Half Step, from the appearance and atmosphere to the care that he puts into all his drinks. It’s not a surprise at all to see how successful he has become.

I highly encourage you to stop by the Half Step Bar if you’re ever in the area. In the meantime, if you have any questions about real estate, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Gregory Group. We’d love to help.

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