East Austin's exclusive club, The Pershing, brings luxury and comfort to Austin's most influential residents
A local musician, a comedian and a tech startup CEO all walk into a bar. It's not in a high rise or even on the new Music Lane like Soho House, instead, it's in an unassuming warehouse-like building built on an old home and lumber barn in East Austin.
The Pershing, a low-profile but highly-coveted luxury club tucked away on East 5th Street and Pedernales, is the watering hole of some of Austin's most famous creatives and elites. It's even been said to be the host of a certain business executive with a keen interest in cryptocurrency.
The Pershing likes to air on the side of mystery. The "Keepers of the Austin Flame," as they call their members, can reach out to management to show interest, then they are approved based on their involvement with the community. To officially become a member, the club charges an undisclosed fee. That doesn't mean they aren't inclusive though, General Manager Kyle Lauterbach said; the club just wants to create a family.
"There's two things that I think are great for somebody that wants to belong to this space," Lauterbach said. "They see a value in the community that we're building, and they're somebody that's creating positive change. That's it."
Opening in 2018, the club is named after the neighborhood in which it was originally built, and retained the original three-story house and barn structures. The club has since slowly filled to nearly 350 members (nearing capacity) mainly by word of mouth.
Here's a look at the club-slash-private concert hall that nearly 350 of Austin's most influential residents call home.
The Pershing Bar is dimly lit and stocked with liquor from sustainable sources. (The Pershing)
The Pershing's clubhouse mixes luxury with comfort. Downstairs, bartenders greet members by first name from behind a dark marble bar. The bar itself is stocked with sustainable liquor brands hand-selected by Director of Beverage Adam Bryan, who "helped bring craft cocktails to Austin" and permanently changed the way business development director Dannye Donnell views martinis.
As members venture farther into the space, they enter several unique rooms, each with their own unique flavor. Dark greens, golds and browns give the space a sophisticated feel. A poker room sits just upstairs; Donnell said plenty of banter is found between guests after business hours. The white room, which Donnell said is the most popular, gives the feel of being outside without the oppressive summer heat.
There are spaces for companies to work throughout with organizations often renting out the conference room to host events throughout the day. Once laptops are shut off, however—Lauterbach says at about 5 p.m.—members can head up a ladder to the hookah lounge, the ultimate child's fort decked out with floor pillows galore.
"I've had members eat their lunch here and do their work for a little bit, call friends over for dinner and play poker and next thing they know it's one in the morning," Lauterbach said. "It's really a place you can spend several hours of your day and not feel stuck."
Across the courtyard is the gallery hall, a private concert venue converted from the property's old barn. Gary Clark Jr., who is also a member, has performed in this space, as have other famous musicians and members of local artist collective Black Fret. The club has branched out, too, introducing comedy shows and new genres to the space every week.
Because many members are creatives themselves, Lauterbach said that every experiential concert is so absorbed by its audience that the entire space could hear a chip drop.
"It goes to show how much your members care about music when you walk in there and it's completely silent," Lauterbach said. "People are so dialed in."
The Pershing's outdoor space can best be enjoyed on summer evenings when heat gives way to a warm breeze. (The Pershing)
The outdoor courtyard is host to evening fun in the summer. The club hosts Tiki Thursdays every week—when Austonia visited, Donnell was out finding coconuts, and Lauterbach was wearing a festive Hawaiian shirt.
During the pandemic, the club was only closed for two business days, thanks to innovative planning from Lauterbach. Lauterbach introduced "Ten Foot Happy Hours" in the summer, installed UVC air sanitation systems, and even offered pina coladas while members waited for their COVID test, which was offered daily. When Lauterbach noticed that many service workers were overlooked during early vaccination, the club even offered a vaccine drive that saw over 4,000 in the industry get vaccinated.
"We're passionate about helping with vaccination—the service industry really got brushed over, (and) they were some of the most vulnerable people in this timeframe," Lauterbach said.
The Pershing's upgrades will include a new pool, private cabanas, coworking spaces, and eventually, lodging for the "Keepers of the Austin Flame." (The Pershing)
While the club is partnered with other clubs across the world and many hotels within the city, a slate of new upgrades will allow the club to become a self-sufficient haven.
In 2022, the club will break ground for plans including a swimming pool, courtyard gardens, private cabanas, co-working spaces, and private casitas for residents to stay. A new steam room and sauna will be introduced and outdoor spaces will expand as well.
While head chef Chris Bissell is now operating his fine dining out of a food truck in true Austin fashion, the club will also begin work on a new kitchen in July to expand event capabilities.
- A look inside Soho House Austin, a luxe club for creatives - austonia ›
- Austin's luxury Soho House opens today for local creatives - austonia ›
- A peek inside 7 of Austin's most elite condominiums - austonia ›
- Hermes fashion brand to open location on South Congress - austonia ›
- Two luxury Austin hotels listed on Conde Nast Travelers list - austonia ›
- What $10 million or more can get you in Austin luxury homes ... ›
- Austin luxury real estate market booms in pandemic - austonia ›
- These 14 Austin hotels offer pool day passes - austonia ›
- Upping the ante: Austin, Dallas are now private poker house hubs - austonia ›
In May, Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein looked back on 10 years of Formula 1's U.S. Grand Prix at COTA confident that the race would be here to stay in Texas. But sources tell Austonia that securing another contract may be in jeopardy.
Some insiders worry that COTA's 2021 Grand Prix race might be its last.
The multi-day fest from Oct. 22-24 will include a 56-lap race over the 3.3-mile track, food and musical performances from two acts, including Billy Joel at COTA's 1,500-acre facility in Southeast Austin. But after this year, the U.S.' first F1-specific track could lose its headline event.
The facility's inability to secure a contract thus far comes down to the Texas Legislature, a new threat in Miami, and, most importantly, money.
The first F 1 race will take place in Miami next year. (Hard Rock Stadium)
Every year, Formula 1 receives roughly $25 million from Texas' Major Events Reimbursement Program, a taxpayer-funded initiative that helps bring big sporting events like 2017's Houston Super Bowl to the state. A 2019 report by the Reimbursements Program on that year's race said the "data is inconclusive" on if the event has a positive or negative economic impact on the state with the resources given. In 2018, the Austin-American Statesman reported that COTA had brought back a total of $75.7 million between 2015 and 2017 for hosting the U.S. Grand Prix.
Legal issues have also barred Epstein and Co. from securing another 10-year contract earlier: in 2018, the company lost its yearly $25 million bid after failing to submit a human trafficking prevention plan as part of its yearly application.
That same year, F1 managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches told the Associated Press that the organization hopes to stay at COTA "for many years to come."
However, in May, the racing league announced that it had secured a 10-year contract to hold the Miami Grand Prix as American interest in the sport soared following the three-season "Drive to Survive" documentary, which gives behind-the-scenes looks at drivers and races of the Formula One World Championship.
Epstein is optimistic about the new U.S. location and told Autoweek in May that "more race in our time zones are good for the sport."
"I think we're getting double the impact this way," Epstein said. "Miami should sell out huge the first year and maybe the second year and then after that, I think we'd be spitting audience if we were around the same time on the calendar. So the spread is fantastic."
Bobby Epstein recognizes the 1 millionth customer of COTA in 2013. (COTA/Facebook)
The new F1 venture may impact COTA's contract, however: in an opinion piece for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writer Mac Engel said Texas is unlikely to fork over taxpayer money if the facility is no longer the only F1 track in the U.S.
According to Engel, the Major Events Reimbursements Program agrees to provide funding only "if Austin holds the only F1 race in the country."
Epstein hasn't addressed such claims; by contrast, he feels as though there's room for a third race in the U.S. as ticket sales rebound after COVID.
"In the first week, we sold pretty much all the tickets we put up for sale and we plan to break the 2019 attendance record," Epstein told Autoweek. "Texas was the first place to lift COVID-19 restrictions (in the U.S.) and put on sporting events, and we're full. We're at 100% capacity.
Despite ventures to diversify revenue at COTA—Epstein's USL soccer team Austin Bold has seen its own share of troubles, and the facility plans to develop into a multi-faceted entertainment arena complete with music venues, a waterpark, condominiums and an 11-story hotel—a loss of its primary event could be devastating for the $300 million complex.
F1 has rarely lasted more than a decade at venues in the U.S. over the last century; let's hope Austin breaks that curse.
COTA's media relations team did not immediately get back to Austonia for comment.
- NASCAR comes to austin, here's how it went - austonia ›
- NASCAR returning to Austin's COTA for second year - austonia ›
- Formula 1 announces Miami Grand Prix, COTA no longer only U.S. ... ›
- Travis County to vaccinate 3k at COTA drive-thru event - austonia ›
- W Series announce F1 partnership race at COTA in 2021 - austonia ›
Houston? Dallas? San Antonio? No, it has to be Austin.
We know Californians love Texas, but a recent string of posts on neighborhood platform Nextdoor in Santa Barbara, California, displays what the craze to move to Austin looks like.
When one user posted, "Hi neighbors, I want to buy a house in Houston, Texas any recommendations?" the responses flooded in displaying what the admiration for Austin looks like from the West Coast. Users mostly advised against a move to Houston; one person even wrote, "Austin is the ONLY place to consider!!"
While some defended H-town, saying, "Awesome place to live," one person wrote, "WORST PLACE TO LIVE." Reasons to not move to Houston from Californians' perspective included:
- "Foul air from refineries"
- "horrible flooding due to the flat Gulf coastal shelf"
- "crazy zoning"
- "racial prejudice"
- "super high humidity"
- "very conservative"
The comments were shifted to Austin's lush greenery, weather and acceptance of gay people.
Over the last five years, Austin has seen more migrants from California than any other state, according to an Austin Chamber of Commerce report. The Austin appeal from residents living in more congested places like California became more prevalent during the pandemic when stay-at-home orders were issued and people sought more space.
It wasn't just Austin though; lots of other Sunbelt cities saw an influx in their housing market as a result of people working from home and looking for a lower cost of living. And that included Texas in general, with people flooding to various Texas cities.
But it hasn't come with resistance. The "Don't California my Texas" pleas are still alive and well, as Californians are blamed for raising the cost of living by outpricing current residents. The housing market has reached record numbers in the median home price year-over-year since the beginning of the pandemic. Austin was even predicted to be the most expensive city outside of California by the end of the year.
Still, Californians and even New Yorkers can't stay away. Companies and celebrities have followed, leading Texas transplant Elon Musk to label Austin's future as "the biggest boomtown that America has seen in half a century."