The huge space — some 25,000 square feet — that was occupied by the Cool River Cafe in Northwest Austin has reopened as Abel’s North Grill and Tap House.
Ellis and Austin Winstanley — 32-year-old twins — purchased the restaurant and about 8 acres of surrounding land at 4001 W. Parmer Lane, and are focusing on attracting banquet and special event business.
“This is a Class A building that cost $200 per square foot when it was originally built,” Ellis Winstanley said.
In addition to the spacious restaurant and bar area, there are eight rooms for private parties and wooded acreage surrounding the restaurant that will be groomed for outdoor events.
Ellis did not disclose the purchase price, but the Travis Central Appraisal District values the land at about $4.1 million and the equipment, which they also purchased, at $363,000.
The Winstanleys have quietly built a small restaurant empire since they were students at the University of Texas.
In 2001, between their sophomore and junior years, they purchased Seed Spots Cafe on North I-35. Then, between their junior and senior years, they bought Cain & Abel’s Bar & Grill on West Campus. The two managed to operate the restaurants and complete school.
“Both properties were distressed, so it didn’t cost us a whole lot,” Winstanley said.
Over the years they have purchased Abel’s on the Lake, El Arroyo, The Tavern and most recently, Hill’s Cafe and Artz Rib House.
“We acquire a lot of historical brands,” Winstanley said.
“After that I got about 10 text messages from friends that we had to do something. I was totally blown away by the place,” Winstanley said.
It’s not all sentimental value, however, The Winstanleys are tenacious when it comes to numbers.
Not only do they own restaurants, they’ve developed software programs through their venture, Tradelogic Corp., that maximize returns on their investments. They also own construction and printing companies that specifically support the restaurant enterprises.
“We deal with a lot of clean-up stuff and we’re good at it,” Winstanley said. “We have really strict parameters, though, on the risk for our deals.”
He said they had hoped to save the building where Artz Rib House was located on South Lamar Boulevard, but the place was just too far gone to salvage most of it.
“We had to tear most of it down, it was in such bad condition, but we’ll keep the footprint of the original building,” Winstanley said.
Their new Abel’s Rib House is scheduled to open on the former Artz Rib House location in early 2014.
Winstanley said they are always looking for the right deal, especially if it includes the real estate.
“Going forward, we’ll consider leases but we’re most interested in buying, especially tracts with eight to 20 acres,” Winstanley said.