You may be familiar with Hotel San Jose, or its big red Jeep parked out front, or the famous Jo’s coffee shop which sits in the hotel’s parking lot. But did you know you can listen to live music at the San Jose? Did you know you can have your tarot cards read at the San Jose? And most importantly, did you know you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy these events or to simply hang out in the lounge and bar area? Yes, you read that right. One of the best kept secrets in Austin is the Hotel San Jose lounge and bar.
Across the street from the Continental Club, located at 1316 South Congress Avenue, Hotel San Jose is the perfect jumping off point, or completion, for any evening.
With its unassuming ivy-covered wall as you enter, you’ll feel like you stepped onto a movie set. And not in a pretentious sort of way, but rather in an authentic and laid-back sort of way. The clean and modern architecture, together with the classic and native landscaping, creates a unique space which brings together locals and visitors to the city.
Hotel San Jose is one of the most unique spots you’ll find in Austin, and perhaps one of the most consistently authentic Austin experiences you’ll encounter.
What does the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” mean to you? Different? Wacky? Eclectic? To me, “Keep Austin Weird” simply refers to keeping the spirit of the city unique and local. People can elect to keep things weird, but so can businesses. And Hotel San Jose has been keeping it weird for decades.
The hotel itself is a dichotomy of weirdness. It’s classy yet trendy, old yet new, tranquil yet boisterous. And with drink and food specials highlighting local companies and breweries, Hotel San Jose celebrates Austin. Even the artwork is hip, showcasing posters from past local musical acts and events. That, my friends, is authentically Austin.
Then and Now
Today, this small stretch of Congress Avenue south of Lady Bird Lake has become the epitome of Austin. You’ll find local restaurants and stores, food trailers, live music and amazing people watching.
But it wasn’t always so. In fact, it was only about 20 years ago when drugs, crime and prostitution ruled our beloved SoCo. Hotel San Jose, built in 1936, was not immune to the degradation of the area. It wasn’t until the early 90’s when local entrepreneur Liz Lambert purchased the seedy old motel and slowly transformed it into the place we know and love today.
Not only did the facade receive a facelift in the late 90’s, but each room was transformed into an ultra modern wonder of design. The clean lines are topped off with beautiful artwork showcasing local musicians and/or events, making it one of the best hotels to recommend to friends and family coming into town for a visit.
On top it all off, Hotel San Jose also organizes a variety of events throughout the year celebrating authentic Austin.
Events at Hotel San Jose
Lounge events vary throughout the year. Summer favorites, such as the Steady Rock Steady event, happen the third Sunday of the month. You can also find unique events, such as the tarot card readings by Olivia Pepper of Lunaria Tarot, on the third Monday of every month.
There are a few events that take place weekly, like the 45 Revolutions a Minute, where you hear classic 45’s spinning every Wednesday. The hotel also just announced a Fall Jazz Brunch series.
However, one of Hotel San Jose’s signature events, and one of my favorites, is the annual South by San Jose which corresponds with SXSW every March. What stemmed from Lambert’s love of music has grown into a 5-day unofficial staple of SXSW. In true Austin style, the San Jose proudly boasts that their event in the hotel parking lot behind Jo’s is “always and forever free.” Past highlights include performances from the Alabama Shakes, Temples, Spanish Gold and Robert Ellis.
So while you may have walked by Hotel San Jose a thousand times, you might not have realized what you were missing. It’s my preferred spot when I’m looking for a low-key happy hour or a quiet nightcap. But regardless of the reasons why you decide to go check it out, I promise that Hotel San Jose will always leave you with that feel-good feeling.
Which San Jose event is your favorite?
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