New York’s Employees Only cocktail bar to branch into Austin

UPDATE 4/13: The Austin location of Employees Only is going to be downtown, although the exact address won’t be announced until later this fall. One of the partners of the original New York bar, Jason Kosmas, is going to have some help in getting the Austin spot up and running: Austin-based private equity company Penumbral Strategic Ventures LLC, which owns and manages the Townsend, one of the city’s best bars, is stepping in to spearhead the project.

That’s a pretty good sign that Employees Only will be just as solid here as it is in New York. Among the people involved in Penumbral and the Townsend is Justin Elliott, a bartender who has helped transform Austin into the sort of place that Employees Only would want to expand to.

“We’re bringing together an experienced team to keep up the tradition and spirit of Employees Only, but the Austin location will very much have its own unique vibe to reflect the city,” Kosmas said in a news release. “We hope that those who have experienced EO in Manhattan will enjoy the Austin location as much as the original, and also are looking forward to introducing the brand, bar and experience to an entirely new audience.”

EARLIER: One venerated New York City cocktail bar is going global with upcoming locations this year — and Austin is lucky enough to be one of the cities where it’s headed.

Photo by Erick Andia Pomar. New York's popular cocktail bar Employees Only is opening a location in Austin.

Photo by Erick Andia Pomar. New York’s popular cocktail bar Employees Only is opening a location in Austin.

As the New York Times reported today, Employees Only is planning to open in Austin, Singapore and Miami Beach by year’s end. Fans of the original location in the West Village will recognize these outlying bars as part of the brand, according to Times reporter Robert O. Simonson, because they’ll preserve the soul of the New York spot.

“Each will be called Employees Only and reflect the character and design of the original, which is known for its Art Deco décor, undulating bar and white-jacketed bartenders,” Simonson wrote in the article.

Austin’s Employees Only is owned by one of the five partners of the New York bar, and he’s a face that cocktail fans in this city know well: Jason Kosmas. A co-founder of the 86 Co., a spirits producer that hails itself as a business “by bartenders for bartenders,” he’s a current Austin resident who has done guest bartending spots at various local bars and serves as a foremost cocktail expert and educator here.

His Employees Only will open later this fall at a not-yet-determined location, according to the New York Times.

Expect Employees Only traditions, like the “homemade chicken soup dished out free to lingering patrons at closing time,” to continue at the Austin bar.

“The bar is going to be shaped the same, function the same,” Kosmas said in the article. “It’s kind of a machine. It’s a proven animal. Messing with it is not in anybody’s interest. And the energy it creates is very important.”

Check back at this blog for more updates about Employees Only later this week.

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