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Old Posted Mar 7, 2008, 5:53 AM
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(SA) Liberty Bar Owner Plans to Open Another Restaurant, this one in Southtown

The Liberty Bar in case anyone is wondering, is the restaurant on Josephine street that is slanted at an angle. You can see it directly from 281.

Liberty Bar owner buys St. Scholastica convent for new eatery

Web Posted: 03/06/2008 09:08 PM CST

Creighton A. Welch
Express-News Business Writer

Since 1985, Dwight Hobart has run the Liberty Bar restaurant in an iconic old and crooked building on Josephine Street.

Now, he's planning to expand the business into another odd building in San Antonio, and this time it's an old convent.

Hobart has purchased the St. Scholastica Convent on South Alamo Street and plans to turn the 9,000-square-foot building into a second restaurant. The current Liberty Bar will remain the same.

A menu hasn't been created yet for the new restaurant, but it will have a similar atmosphere and cuisine.

"The best thing I can say is, the very same people who are doing the Liberty Bar today are going to be doing this other restaurant tomorrow," Hobart said. "Although it will not be a duplication, there will be continuity. We hope it will be a restaurant and bar appropriate to the King William neighborhood and the people there."

By the time Hobart opens within the next year, he'll have a new group of King William residents in his own backyard.

Hobart bought the convent from Steve Yndo, James Lifshutz and Christopher Hill, who are redeveloping St. Benedict's Hospital and turning the 1950s hospital into 66 condo units. Yndo hopes to have the condos finished by October.

The three buildings that made up the hospital are all on the same site as the convent and are just a few yards from one another.

"It's kind of a clean midcentury redo of the building," Yndo said.

To complement Hobart's restaurant, there are seven live-work spaces in the condos that can be used as small retail shops or galleries. They're clumped together with space outside for people to walk around and to mingle among the shops and restaurant.

"The neighborhood's the main attraction for people," Yndo said. "We're designing the condos for everyone here to interact with the neighborhood and the neighborhood to interact with everyone here."

The new Liberty Bar adds to a growing number of dining opportunities along South Alamo and in the Southtown area.

"I think the addition of the restaurant will put the area on San Antonio's culinary map," said Lorie Campos, a real estate agent with Downtown Dwellings. "The area is finally becoming a destination point. You could grab a margarita at Rosario's and then stroll down the block to the new Liberty Bar for a fantastic dinner. How great is that?"

Though Hobart's new venture will have some of the same feel as the Liberty Bar, it might not be exactly the same as his current restaurant.

"I don't think it's going to be the Liberty Bar re-created," he said.

But that doesn't mean the Liberty Bar is staying where it is forever. Hobart said the restaurant renewed its lease for three years, but after that, it might move somewhere else.

"We might continue there; we might not," he said. "Nobody knows. We're very interested to try and stay in the neighborhood though."

Although Yndo originally wanted to lease the convent, he said an owner might be more inclined to invest in the building to help the area become another gathering spot along South Alamo.

"The first thing that inspired me was that the idea that where we are now, we don't really have control because we don't own our building," Hobart said. "I believe we're an established reference point in the city of San Antonio, but we don't own it."

The longtime owner of the Liberty Bar building recently died, Hobart said, and the building has been passed on to distant relatives in Houston with whom Hobart has a rather strained relationship.

Yndo and the other developers bought the hospital and convent in 2004, first thinking of turning the 3-acre property into a hotel. But then the Grand Hyatt was announced, and Yndo said he didn't think hotel rooms were such a grand idea after all.

And rather than start with a new project, he wanted to work with the old hospital building, which had been abandoned for more than a decade.

"In this neighborhood (Southtown), it's tough to find anything," Yndo said. "And I have a hard time tearing down something. There's just no way to build it new and have that same old feeling."

The condos will cost between $179,000 and $588,000 and will range in size from 790 square feet to 2,079 square feet. About one-fifth of the condos have a balcony or terrace space.

The homeowner fees will be 16 cents per square foot per month.

Residents will have a pool and surrounding grassy area and a fitness center. One-bedroom owners will have one parking space, and two-bedroom units will get two spaces.

On-site storage will be available as well.
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