Dirty Martin’s plans to take legislative action to prevent displacement by Project Connect


Kennedy Weatherby

In order from left to right, Valentin, Betsy Berry, Robert Hughes and Daniel Young stand in front of Dirty Martin’s, an Austin burger restaurant located on Guadalupe Street. Young is the general manager of Dirty Martin’s, and has continued to fight to keep the burger joint open.

Sarah Brager, General News Reporter

When Daniel Young voted in favor of Austin’s new transit initiative Project Connect, he had no idea the proposed rail lines would run through Dirty Martin’s Place where he’s worked as the general manager for almost eight years. The third-generation Austinite said he supported improved transportation but felt misled by the original proposal when he realized the project could cost him his job and the city a beloved 97-year-old West Campus restaurant. 

Project Connect includes a series of new rail systems and expanded bus routes around the city. Austin voters approved the multi-billion dollar plan in November 2020, but the proposed design for the Orange Line — which is routed through Dirty Martin’s on Guadalupe — wasn’t announced until spring of 2020. 

Young said Dirty Martin’s is working with Texas legislators to file legislation requiring more transparency from the Austin Transit Partnership, who oversees Project Connect, about displacement and costs. The bill’s exact language is unclear as it has yet to be filed, but Young said the community at Dirty Martin’s is gathering signatures and donations to support the initiative. 

“I feel like a lot of people were misled, and a lot of our customers who also voted for it didn’t realize the destruction it’s going to cause,” Young said. “I would have voted against it if I knew they were going to destroy my favorite place on Earth.” 

Lonny Stern, a public involvement manager for ATP, said project leaders tried to avoid property impacts when establishing the plans, but they prioritized residential areas over businesses because of the current housing crisis in Austin. The list of impacted businesses and properties has not been finalized, but the current design runs through multiple businesses between Dean Keeton and 29th Street. 

Stern said ATP is prepared to help relocate affected businesses so they are not forced to permanently close. Public involvement managers walked along the proposed Orange Line route and visited businesses who may be impacted, including Dirty Martin’s, to discuss their needs. 

“Any property that is experiencing a (direct) impact would be offered a fair market value for that property and can receive funds for relocation and reestablishment,” Stern said. “We’re hopeful that any business experiencing an impact will take the opportunity to work with us and find another home in the city. ” 

However, Young said there’s been little communication from ATP about what’s next for Dirty Martin’s and other businesses on the Drag.

“We just hit 97 years (of business), and there’s so much history that has gone into Dirty’s,” said Taisia Pominov, an employee and finance junior. “There have been first dates, weddings and funeral receptions there. It’s much more than a restaurant.” 

Stern said ATP will give final route recommendations to the Federal Transit Administration this summer after a series of open house opportunities where community members and business owners can give public testimony about Project Connect. Stern said the open house series, which will begin in late March, is an opportunity for Young and other Austinites to voice their opinions. 

“This is really going to determine where we make our initial investments in this project,” Stern said. “In addition to that, any of the businesses and property owners along that corridor can expect to have one-on-one conversations with ATP and real estate staff.”