Iconic San Antonio bar reopens on the East Side after uncertain future
No doubt fans of Tucker’s Kozy Korner have wondered whether the renowned East Side bar really would reopen after a short series of restarts and closures in the last few years. But wonder no more. Tucker’s is back open as of November 18, with the same standard offerings that made it popular with longtime patrons.
There are new things in store for fans of the lounge, which is now owned by Steve Mahoney’s SA Bar Management group, the force behind popular concepts like George’s Keep, Francis Bogside, Lilly’s Greenville, Blue Box, and Hanzo.
Christine Hill, who manages the bar at many of Mahoney’s establishments, tells CultureMap that the team made a few improvements, but wanted to be mindful of the heritage of the long-running classic.
"It still has the nice, comfortable, cozy environment and we want to cater to this neighborhood and this community, but also respect the history of this place and honor it," Hill says.
A San Antonio institution
Located on Houston Street, just east of downtown, Tucker’s has become a San Antonio institution of sorts. Having opened as a hot dog and burger stand in 1948, Tucker’s evolved over the decades into a cocktail lounge that lacked the frills but became a hot spot thanks to its live soul and R&B music and, later on, down-home soul food and jazz.
But over the past five years, there has been a whirlwind of changes at the spot. Chris Cullum — son of the late local jazz legend Jim Cullum and creator of the Cullum’s Attagirl and Attaboy food ventures — took over Tucker’s in 2014. Then in 2017, Jeret Pena and his Boulevardier Group resumed operations, maintaining much of the culinary and musical programming Cullum set up.
A short time later, ownership again changed hands, this time to Jeff and Jenn White, who departed to focus on their current main enterprise, Eastside Kitchenette. Most recently, Andrew Lake and Nathan Azar took up the reigns at Tucker’s in November 2018, but their tenure only lasted around seven months.
Aside from a few one-off events, Tucker’s has been quiet since spring. That changed mid-November as SA Bar Management began its new era.
A new era for Tucker's
For now, Tucker’s is sticking to drinks. The menu includes traditional cocktails such as Rusty Nail, The Business, Old Fashioned, and Brandy Alexander ranging $8 to $10. There's also wine by the glass, and some domestic and imported beers. Hill and her team are working to reopen the patio bar soon.
Food, however, is on the way. Upgrades to the bar's existing kitchen are ongoing, so Tucker's is inviting a neighborhood resident to bring his barbecue for customers to purchase on weekends. Hill also notes there soon will be a menu of small bites, such as egg rolls, made available daily.
Plans for the revived Tucker’s also call for patrons to be entertained by an alternating mix of DJs and live musicians. Sunday brunch looks to be returning, too, but the hours are currently 4 pm-2 am daily.
Meanwhile, the collage of photos, signs, and magazine covers still adorn the bar’s warm, cozy interior. The old-school jukebox will also still be playing, although the team found a way to breathe new life into that feature too.
"When we get the jukebox up and running, we can hook it into our house speakers, so if you want to play something, everyone can hear it," Hill explains.
Finally, Mahoney's team repaired and cleaned the iconic marquee sign that sits atop the bar's front entrance. For one of San Antonio’s longest running bars, it points to a bright future.