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(Juliet)

Juliet's expansive Barton Springs patio, shown here pre-pandemic, has proven to be a boon.

Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, is about star-crossed lovers and ends in tragedy. The tale of Austin's own Romeo's and Juliet is a happier one about ships in the night.


In fair Zilker, where we lay our scene, Italian restaurant Romeo's closed abruptly in 2012, leaving a vacant storefront—and large patio—on Barton Springs Road.

Three years later, it reopened as a fine dining restaurant called Juliet. Owner Daniel Wilkins and his wife, Donna, had traveled extensively around Italy and found the former Romeo's location to be the right place for their new venture.

"It's really special to this day," said Emily O'Connor, chief management officer of Veneto Hospitality, which owns Juliet. "We still have people come in and say, 'We met at Romeo's,' or 'We had our first date at Romeo's.'"

(Romeo's Austin/Twitter)

Maintaining relationships with long-term customers has been a long-term focus at Juliet.

When the restaurant first opened, it was a fine dining establishment known as Juliet Ristorante. But in 2017 it underwent a transformation to Juliet Italian Kitchen, an upscale casual spot. "Our food was so complex and our Ristorante name was a mismatch for this street," Wilkins told the Austin American-Statesman at the time.

The new Juliet was designed to be a regular destination for Austinites, rather than a special occasion spot. "It's geared more toward providing this place that people want to come back to over and over again," O'Connor said, citing local institutions such as Matt's El Rancho as inspiration.

Repeat diners have helped keep Juliet afloat during the initial pandemic shutdown and subsequent regulatory changes, ordering takeout and returning to celebrate birthdays and other special events on Juliet's large patio. "It's really heartwarming to see that the success that Romeo's had, that Juliet has that same place in people's hearts, too," O'Connor said.

It hasn't been easy, however.

Prior to the pandemic, Juliet did the bulk of its business in person. When the pandemic began, the restaurant only offered take-out for more than two months. "Every day was a learning experience for quite awhile," O'Connor said.

When Juliet reopened in late May, it had to find ways to make customers feel safe returning in-person—and adapt to constantly changing capacity limits as the severity of the pandemic fluctuated. "We've changed (capacity limits) four or five times," O'Connor said.

Despite the challenges, Juliet was in some ways better positioned than other restaurants to survive the pandemic. In addition to its regular clientele, the restaurant has a lush patio that could seat 135 people pre-COVID. Because it was already focused on casual dining, it didn't have to make the switch, as many fine dining restaurants did, when the pandemic began.

The dining room at the fine-dining Southern restaurant Olamaie, in West Campus, remains closed, but owner Michael Fojtasek has transitioned to special occasion party packs, such as for the Super Bowl, and the successful offshoot venture Little Ola's Biscuits. Other businesses have been less successful, such as high-end spots Second Bar + Kitchen and The Brewer's Table, both of which closed due to the pandemic.

"We're very lucky," O'Connor said.

After a tumultuous year, Juliet will welcome guests—both in-person and for take-out meals—this Valentine's Day weekend, with a special menu and on-theme pink drinks. And the restaurant's prospects are looking up, in a sharp departure from its namesake.

In March, Juliet will open a second location at the Arboretum in North Austin, where it hopes to become a regular haunt for a new crowd. "We want to be part of the neighborhood," O'Connor said. "That's really important for us."

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Austonia file photo. (Christa McWhirter/Austonia)

Police have arrested one of two suspects involved in a mass shooting at Austin's Sixth Street in the early morning hours on Saturday, leaving 14 people injured and two in critical condition.

The arrest was made by the Austin Police Department and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force. One suspect is still at large.

Police started receiving 911 phone calls at 1:24 a.m about a man that fired shots into a large crowd, and responded to a chaotic scene on the 400 block of East Sixth Street. Detectives are surveying video footage captured by bystanders and cameras on the scene to identify the suspect.

The Austin Police Department has narrowed down their search to two male suspects and believes there was "some type of disturbance" between the two parties.

No deaths have been reported. Fourteen victims are receiving treatment in a hospital in stable condition with one treated in an emergency room; two are in critical condition.

According to Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon, "almost all" of the victims are innocent bystanders but police have not ruled anyone out at this time.

Shooting on 6th Street Austin Texas 6-12-2021 (Aftermath) youtu.be


The shooting occurred on the weekend of the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally. With lots of people downtown, police say it was difficult to get EMS in and out of the scene. Police arrived while the scene was still an "active threat," officers "immediately began lifesaving measures" and drove six victims to the hospital in their squad cars, said Chacon, and four were transported in ambulances.

Chacon said that the incident is believed to be isolated, and they optimistic they will be successful in getting the two suspects into custody. Multiple departments, including APD, the FBI, Texas DPS and the ATF, are involved in the investigation.

Austin police are also requesting state troopers for patrol assistance in the coming days. Chacon stressed staffing issues are increasingly making responding to emergency calls "very hard."

"Overall, we remain a safe city," Chacon said. "Also keep in mind when you come downtown, you need to be safety conscious. Be vigilant of your environment and your surroundings."

Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed and 53 wounded in Orlando, Florida. Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call 911 or 512-472-TIPS.

This story was updated at 2:47 p.m. to include new information and will be updated as more details are revealed.

(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 dash of bitters

Directions: Add all ingredients to a shaker and dry shake for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake again for 5 seconds, or until the shaker becomes cold. Strain into a martini glass. Top with a dash of bitters.

Austin police are investigating a homicide in North Austin where a woman was shot and killed, just hours after a mass shooting in Downtown Austin hospitalized 14 people.

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