Digital Storytelling and Visitor Analytics for City and Cultural Institutions
In March of 1963, the Carousel lounge was born. That is when Cecil Meier, a former salesman for Butter Krust, opened what would become one of Austin's most famous and longest-running bars. It is hard to imagine this now, but in 1963 there weren't many places to drink in north Austin. The lounge is actually older than I-35 itself. It filled a niche and became popular almost immediately.
Meier and his wife Myrtle basically lived in their idiosyncratic circus themed creation and the place was packed every night. The original decor was intended to mimic the Carousel Bar & Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. Of course this being Austin, instead of being swanky and intimidating, the circus theme was more of the more quirky but slightly creepy variety. The clientele was as diverse then as it is now with old timers, cowboys, hipsters, musicians, writers, and businessmen all crowding up to the bar to partake in their daily libations.
While The Carousel Lounge is a piece of living history, it is not immune to change. Though it is still just restricted to just beer and wine, the menu has been updated a time or two. Liquor can be bought around the corner, and the helpful bartenders will give you a setup for cheap. One thing that hasn't changed: it's still cash only. But don't worry, they have added an ATM outside in case you forget. Like all great dives, it is easy to come for a drink or two and end up closing the place down. The bartenders are so down to earth that it feels like drinking at a buddy's place - if that buddy had a somewhat unexplainable affinity for clowns. Lucielle is a very large pink elephant that is the official mascot of for the bar. A good rule of thumb is that when Lucielle starts to get blurry from your spot at the bar, it's time to call the Uber.
The times are indeed a changin in Austin. Unlike when the Carousel lounge first opened in 1963, there seems like there are endless drinking options in the capital city now. Fancy cocktail bars, rowdy clubs, and themed sports bars are on every block. But if what your thirsty for is a dose of old weird Austin, then The Carousel Lounge is the place to be.
Cover Photo by Hoboelvis via Flickr