As Automobile Alley became a hotspot for development over the last decade, one lot continued to sit empty.
The overgrown lot on Seventh Street became a haven for trash and stood out next to the sleek restaurants and businesses opening around it. Through the windows of The Fit Pig, the grab-and-go restaurant Nick and Carly Faulkner opened in 2015, Nick Faulkner looked at the empty lot and thought it had potential.
After more than a year of coordinating with the city and reviving a block that had been empty for nearly 100 years, the Faulkners opened The Yard, a 9,000 square-foot urban beer garden built out of shipping containers located at 21 NW Seventh St.
Nick Faulkner said the lot, which is leased from developer Chris Salyer, had been vacant since the 1920s.
“It was overgrown and gnarly,” Faulkner said. “We were digging up all sorts of weird car parts. There were mattresses in the corner and big chain link fence with barbed wire. It was needing some love, for sure.”
Faulkner is owner of a local construction company and was either hands-on or oversaw the work on the Yard property, which totals 28,000 square feet.
Crews had to tap into the city’s water and sewer line and establish electricity for the project. The Faulkners were inspired in part to create a beer garden after the success of Midtown’s The Bleu Garten and Dallas’ Katy Trail Ice House. The idea to use shipping containers came from Austin’s Container Bar, a three-story bar and nightclub that more closely resembles the Faulkners’ original idea for the space.
“We have a building approved, a three-story development, but it’s on hold with oil dropping to $30 a barrel,” Faulkner said.
The Yard, as it is currently constructed, opened in May. The facility has more than 50 beers in-house as well as liquor and wine. Guests can choose from a food truck parked on the premises and beer cocktails like the Fuego, a bloody Mary drink that substitutes the vodka for beer.
Faulkner said they originally played around with the idea of craft cocktails but wanted to put the onus on beer to take advantage of the growing industry in Oklahoma. The Yard features eight Oklahoma beers on tap.
“The beer garden concept is more laid-back,” Faulkner said. “People have tried to do the craft cocktail thing, and the city wasn’t ready for it on a big scale. O Bar and Ludivine do a great job, but we didn’t think we’d be successful with it in our concept.”
The Yard is open Tuesdays-Sundays. Faulkner said the 3,500 square-foot special event space on the second level is the facility’s primary space on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as it gets booked for different corporate events.
Business picks up Thursday through Saturday, whether it is just a regular Friday night to drink in an outdoor setting, Saturday to watch college football or for a community event like Oct. 21’s Puppies & Pilates, which was a fundraiser for Country Roads Animal Rescue.
Faulkner hopes to keep The Yard open through the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“We are going to be open as long as we can be,” he said. “ It got cold one day last week and we thought we might be done, but then it’s back nearly 90 degrees this week. We’ll be open as long as we have decent weather.”
The Faulkners will play it by ear for when to re-open The Yard in 2018 and plan to do some flash openings if there is extended warm weather as early as February, potentially. The best way to track events and seasonal openings is through The Yard’s Facebook and Instagram feeds.
“We’re lean and can get open if there is some nice weather,” Faulkner said. “We’ll be open [full-time] by mid-March.”
With less than half of The Yard’s space finalized, Faulkner is eyeing some additions when it re-opens in 2018. He has been in talks with a corporate sponsor to put together a concert series next year, which would potentially be housed in a small amphitheater at the back of the property.
“We figured out operational flow this year, and we’ll be ready to go full-steam-ahead next year,” Faulkner said. “We’re surrounded by good neighbors who knew us from The Fit Pig and have helped out tremendously.”
The Fit Pig opened in November 2015 and serves a variety of healthy prepackaged meals that can also be delivered. Everything on the menu, including spaghetti and meatballs, which is made with spaghetti squash, is gluten-free.
The Faulkners were attracted to the location because of its proximity to a growing number of apartment complexes. The same goes for The Yard, which is becoming a community hub for those who live in Automobile Alley.
“You don’t see a lot of property available in Auto Alley because people have come in and developed, but we were very lucky,” Faulkner said.
Print Headline: Urban transformation; The Yard refurbished a long-forgotten block in Automobile Alley with a beer garden.