AUSTIN, Texas — Austin's rising cost of living continues to force local business owners to make tough decisions. On Thursday, vegan restaurant Counter Culture announced it will close at the end of the year.
"For the past three years, I've been looking for a building to buy," said Susan Davis, Counter Culture owner. "That was always my next step. Prices have just really increased. It just doesn't seem feasible right now."
She said there are other factors that played into her decision, one of them being how business went down during the pandemic.
"We're near downtown, and a lot of people don't work from downtown anymore," she added.
Many are working from home. And as more people switched to a virtual setting, her staff felt the impact.
"It's hard to retain the staff," said Davis. "They don't … make tips. You know, all the pay had to be increased."
Everything is coming with added cost, even the food.
"A case of romaine lettuce is usually about $30 to $40 for a case," she said. "And it was over $80 the other week."
Davis said in a post on social media that the restaurant, located at 2337 E. Cesar Chavez St., will close when its lease ends at the end of December. Prior to its 11 years on Cesar Chavez, Counter Culture had a location on North Loop Boulevard for 2.5 years.
"Through those years, my staff and I have made many fond memories & personal connections with you, our valued customers. Without your support we never would have made it this far. So, a sincere & heartfelt thank you – to all of you – for this amazing experience of a lifetime!" Davis wrote in part.
Davis said she doesn't have a clear picture of what the future will hold for Counter Culture, noting that the "way people eat out has changed." She said while she loves Austin "wholeheartedly," with the rising costs, she isn't sure it's feasible to rent again and "buying seems like a faraway dream."
However, she stays hopeful that someday she can reopen her restaurant. In the meantime, her staff will reminisce on all the good memories.
"People have been coming here since before their kids were born," said Riley Haun, Counter Culture lead server. "We've had weddings here. So, I've ... heard all of those stories. And it's like everyone is pretty sad that, you know, it's like their memories are kind of gone."
Starting on Monday, Dec. 5, Counter Culture will go to a reduced hours schedule. The restaurant will be open Monday through Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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