Update, November 12th: This story has been updated to clarify that HEB is also a tenant in the mall, not the landlord.
Another popular Austin restaurant is closing – but not for the obvious reason. Brick Oven, the homemade, wood-burning pizza place that has been a staple in Austin since 1982, is closing its only remaining location in late November.
The company has been plagued by the same COVID-19 challenges as any other local restaurant. It even had to close its Red River Street location in March as the pandemic and above-average growth in the area presented insurmountable obstacles. However, the closure of the Brick Oven arboretum location on Research Boulevard in North Austin is due to an entirely different circumstance.
“It has pretty much nothing to do with COVID,” said Joe Morales, Brick Oven’s 31-year general manager, to CultureMap. “HEB is expanding and has not extended our lease.”
Morales said the brick-oven owners learned about five months ago that their lease on the arboretum may not be renewed. This information was confirmed a month later.
As a long-standing company in the community, Brick Oven is asking fans to visit the Arboretum location as often as possible before its last day on November 30th – and to tell pizza fans the reason for the situation.
“2020 is the worst,” says Brick Oven’s latest blog post about its closure. “It was impossible to predict that HEB would announce its intention to expand and close the shops in the center, including us. We are homeless. We are gutted. We have lost our lease.”
HEB did not immediately respond to requests for comment on expansion plans for its arboretum business.
According to Morales, the Austinites have provided additional support since the upcoming Brick Oven closure. He notes that the company could take advantage of the increased business as owners Donnie Johnson and Stan and Debbie Adams consider whether to reopen the pizza concept at a different location in the future. Morales encourages Brick Oven fans to follow the business on social media for updates.
“We’ll look around,” says Morales. “There will be plenty of vacancies in town to look at. We probably won’t be that big. We’ll probably look for smaller locations. But we’re looking pretty aggressive right now. If we find something in the next few months, we’ll get the ball rolling. “