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Demolition Approved For West Side's Landmark Malt House

A city commission voted Wednesday to approve the demolition of the iconic Malt House on San Antonio’s West Side. The restaurant is a designated historic landmark with countless longtime fans, but that probably won’t stop a 7-Eleven from popping up in its place.

The Malt House drive-in has been a popular gathering place since it opened in 1949. At a Historic Design Review Commission meeting Wednesday, residents argued that bulldozing it would be a devastating loss.  

“We lose like a whole library of memories and we lose a structure that provided a safety net for the community,” said Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, with West Side Preservation Alliance. “It’s a perfect example of the bicultural reality of San Antonio. It served Euro-American food—corn dogs and malts, but it also served Mexican food.”

A parade of residents, including former city manager Alex Briseño, rattled off their favorite Malt House memories.

“The Malt house is too important a part of our West Side community, so I’m here to stand up for it,” said Rachel Delgado.

Sporting a Malt House T-shirt, John David Griffin got choked up as he told the city commission that he’s been going to the restaurant for decades up until this May when it closed for repairs.

“On that last day we went to the kitchen,” said Griffin. “We played music that usually you’d play at a funeral you to do a despedida—or send-off. It was just a wonderful place—and you could meet everybody there.”

But the Malt House owners of 26 years say they’re out of money and it’s time to close. Ivan Gonzalez says the fond memories are just that.

“You have a good memory? Good,” said Gonzalez. “Be thankful for it. But, where are you as a customer? How come you don’t come here anymore?”

Ivan’s dad, Baldermar Gonzalez, has worked at the Malt House for 46 years. He’s been trying to sell it for the past two. He says he’s almost out of options, and 7-11 has offered him a franchise deal.

I feel bad, but I have no other recourse but to close,” said the elder Gonzalez. “We ran out of money, we ran out of savings, and now it’s time to close.”

7-11 only wants the property if they can demolish the site, but it was designated as a landmark by the city’s Office of Historic Preservation a few years ago. So now, the city is weighing the cultural significance of the restaurant against the financial hardship of its owners.

Demolition is approved, but only if and when designs for the new 7-11 are also approved, which will likely need to incorporate the history and legacy of the Malt House.