Austin’s Rainey Street Historic District was created in 1985 to safeguard a crop of run-down bungalows along Lady Bird Lake. The protection’s ability to stave off development was kneecapped when the area was rezoned as part of the city’s Central Business District in 2004, opening it to a wider array of uses. The cocktail bars pounced, and—writing from lived experience—by the early 2010s, it was a hotbed of conviviality.
For most of the decade, one shack was the first brick-and-mortar home of G’Raj Mahal, but the restaurant closed in 2021, leaving behind a site shorn of protected trees and with several questionable patios. A city staffer told architect Scott Magic of Magic Architecture, who renovated the building to become the Stay Put Brewery, that “this property [was] site plan exemptioned out,” resulting in an 18-month review process for just 900 square feet of new construction.
The handsome result will, true to its name, hopefully stick around for a while. The project has three parts: a beer hall in the historic 1923 house, a linear brewery box along one side of the backyard, and a restroom building that takes the place of a carriage house.
The exterior of the existing structure was restored, with the original window openings, trim profiles, columns, and roofline reconstructed from historic imagery. A teardrop siding profile milled from western red cedar was specified; left unfinished, it will silver in time.
The house’s interior was cleaned out and reset with a long wood bar divided into framed panels and edged in an expressive scroll profile. Plaster walls cozy up the room, which is capped by a dark ceiling. Seating options include grabbing a picnic table or bellying up to the bar. A new steel window system opens to the patio, where similar furniture is scattered across the back deck and mulched front and side yards. In the Cor-ten– clad brewery, seven beers are fermented for on-site consumption. Two operable windows let guests watch the brewers do their thing.
Magic Architecture’s design takes cues from the great watering holes of the Hill Country: There is a rusty rocking lounger on the porch and, inside, pools of warm pendant lights under which one can drown in cold beer. But it’s also a remnant of time gone by. 70 Rainey, a 34-story condo designed by Page, is across the street, and luxury apartments and hotels are rising nearby. More are to come: The Stay Put is surrounded by four construction cranes. It’s evidence of a booming Austin recently (and unevenly) chronicled by Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker. If the city’s Elon-pilled transformation proves overwhelming, the Stay Put seems a comfortable-enough respite. One can only hope it as George Jones on the jukebox.