Nutty Brown to head north: Iconic venue, restaurant to move to Round Rock

By Paige Lambert

The land was supposed to be a zoo, then a retail store, then a restaurant. The restaurant would later become one of Dripping Springs’ most well-known attractions.

Nutty Brown Café. The name brings to mind music, family, food.

But it’s going to be a thing of the past, come 2016, as the management makes plans to move the cafe to Round Rock, after the sale of the property.

Years ago, the thriving music venue wasn’t such a sure thing. The landlord, Bob Rotter, founded Nutty Brown Café in 2001. When it didn’t fare well, and it almost had to close, Farr began helping Rotter find someone to buy Nutty Brown Café. When no one would buy it, Farr bought Nutty Brown Café from Rotter in 2002. 

“It was more of a mom and pop store,” Farr said. “If we had 200 people we thought we were rich.”

The business slowly began to grow, attracting local residents and Austinites. Quickly, Farr entertained the idea of a live music venue.

“I started thinking there is a lot of good music here,” he said. “We should attract that here.”

Farr said he would get a stack of CDs in the mail every day, mainly from local talents. On a late night drive home, he popped one of the tracks into his CD player.

 Weeks later Randy Rogers, now one of the top Texas country music artists, made his debut at Nutty Brown. 

“This whole Texas country scene started growing on me,” Farr said. “I booked Randy Rogers for $700 and it was the most I’d ever had.”

In 2004 The Nut doubled the stage and brought in musicians such as Reckless Kelly and Kevin Fowler. The once mom-and-pop store now attracts 800 people to each show.

Even with the transition to a live music venue, Farr told artists they had to play PG-rated shows.

“Guys like Bob Schneider just laughed and said sure, ‘I need fans of all ages’,” Farr said. “I wanted people to bring the whole family.”

He continued to break stereotypes, letting kids in free and ending shows before midnight.

 “There’s not many places you can have a huge show (Saturday night) and a Sunday brunch the next day,” Greg Reed, general manager, said.

Nutty Brown experienced its golden years from 2008-2012, booking their first nationally known artist.

The Gary Allen concert attracted 4,200 people, marking their first sold-out show. Farr said it was his best and worst night.

 “We had so many people we ran out of everything,” Farr said. “The only thing I had left to give was a room temperature Shiner.”

Reed said he loved the crazy shows and the staff’s comaraderie during the melee.

“It’s when you are in the trenches and get through it and let out a sigh with everyone,” he said. “It’s work, but it’s fun work.”

Big names like Pat Green, Blake Shelton and Clay Walker kept coming back and Farr always made room for local flavors.

While the venue earned its place in the live music world, Farr still didn’t own the land. H-E-B bought the land earlier this year and last month Nutty Brown announced it will move to Round Rock in 2016.

“H-E-B has been great to let us stay here,” Farr said. “But I want to be a landowner where no one can tell me to leave.”

Nutty Brown’s departure, while sad, won’t hurt Dripping Springs too much, said Ginger Faught, deputy city manager. Since it was never in city limits, it has never had to pay sales tax to the city.

C.B. Demiralp, a manager at Nutty Brown, said she doesn’t expect there to be a gaping hole after the cafe leaves. Instead, patrons will most likely frequent other local venues and help those venues grow, she said.

Farr said he doesn’t know what the new Nutty Brown Café will look like, but the Cowboy sign, guitars and memories will go with the Nut.

“I’m a little emotional about it, but I look forward to the next big thing,” he said.“The next smile, the next laugh and the next guy on my stage.”

Plans for the future

Farr has become involved in another venture just down the road, at 8600 W. Hwy 290, where Señor Buddy’s is located. Farr and friends purchased the property, and have renamed it Graceland Grocery. The remodeled building is set to open Oct. 10. The new venue will include an outdoor eating area, coffee bar, an indoor bar and more. 

 

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