Victory Grill Spotlight

The Victory Grill opened its door amidst the announcement of victory over Japan in 1945. In the heat of Jim Crow segregationist laws, Johnny Holmes saw the need for a place where black soldiers returning from the war could celebrate. The club quickly became known for its music and food. During its heyday, the club was part of the Chitlin’ Circuit allowing them to regularly host famous African American acts in the likes of Bobby Bland, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, B. B. King, James Brown, Billie Holiday, and Chuck Berry. A resident of the area was later quoted saying, "The street was so crowded you could barely walk. It was like New Orleans." The eastern edge of a racially segregated Austin became the spot for great music and a cold beer.

Victory Grill in Austin, ca. 1945

Victory Grill in Austin, ca. 1945

In the 1970’s, the Victory Grill fell on hard times forcing them to close their music venue and exclusivity focus on food.  Desegregation had brought an end to the Chitlin’ Circuit and as affluent African Americans moving out of the area the once flourishing Eastside of Austin experienced poverty and decay.  For a brief moment in 1987, music returned as a reunion bash brought together former musicians and fans for one night of celebration. Sadly after years of struggling to keep the doors open, a fire on October 10th, 1988 forced the Victory Grill to close.

The news of the grill closing sparked various fundraisers and restoration attempts. In 1989 Austin Mayor Lee Cooke declared August 24th, “Jonny Holmes and Victory Grill Appreciation Day” leading Clifford Antone, a blues music promoter, to hold a fundraising concert in the attempt to cover reconstruction costs. Despite all these efforts it wasn’t until R.V. Adams and Eva Lindsey provided additional funding that the grill was able to be restored. In 1996, the doors re-opened bringing music and celebration to the Eastside once more.

As Austin’s last remaining juke joint on the original Chitlin’ Circuit, the Victory Grill has contributed a great deal to Austin's musical heritage. To recognize this, the Texas Historical Commission listed it on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998.

In 2011, the Grill came under new management of Another Option Productions with assistance form Capitol View Arts. Since then the focus on music and community building as guided the Victory Grill. Leading them to hosted private events, educational programing, and special performances including the Pink Elephant Hip Hop Festival, a venue connected to South by Southwest. The Victory Grill will always be a landmark of rich music legacy of Austin, Texas