By Elizabeth McGuire
To be perfectly clear, Matt Luckie would rather not talk about himself. He would rather not pose for a photo or elaborate on all the ways he is contributing to the community. He loves Austin and a good cause, but truth be told, he would much rather shine the spotlight anywhere else besides himself.
Fortunately for us, Luckie has a good sense of humor and knows when he’s been beat. So here we are, sitting at Republic Square Park on a beautiful summer morning, ready to talk about all the ways that Luckie is making Austin a better place to live.
Luckie is a longtime Austinite, entrepreneur and creator of some of the city’s most recognizable nightlife venues. In 1997, he left a bartending job to open his first bar, Lucky Lounge. Since then he has added numerous iconic businesses to the downtown landscape, including Lavaca Street Bar & Grill, The Belmont, Star Bar, Mean Eyed Cat, and Brazos Hall.
Ten years ago, Luckie teamed up with with Jeff Waughtal to create FBR Management, which manages bar operations at large-scale, nationwide events and festivals such as Austin City Limits Festival, Austin Food & Wine Festival and Lollapalooza.
From the beginning, his work in the bar business has overlapped with outdoor spaces and parks.
“In the early years (future founder of C3 Presents and ACL Festival) Charlie Jones was working by himself and we were doing little festivals with him—here at Republic Square, Auditorium Shores and Waterloo Park, so we were always in the parks. And back in those days, Charlie would always make deals with whoever else had the park the next day where we had to come back and sell water for a 5K race or some charity event. And we were like, ‘We’ve got to come back the next morning??’ He would go, ‘Either you do, or you don't get the show.’ So I'm like, ‘OK…see you in the morning!’”
As the event and festival work grew, so did Luckie’s appreciation and support for the parks.
“Once Collin Wallis and I connected, that's when we got involved with APF and truly began to understand the mission of how they're improving our parks.”
The relationship changed the way his entire team operated. “When you're running forklifts and all that out there, your mindset is ‘We’ve got a festival to do!’ but we learned to be careful so now it’s all about, ‘Watch out…Where are the sprinkler heads?’”
His staff regularly volunteers for It’s My Park Day events and can now fluently speak the language of trees, mulch and root zones.
Luckie and his wife, Vanessa, have been longtime donors to APF and members of the host committee for the annual Party for the Parks. When Luckie won the Golden Shovel award in 2018, he insisted on bringing his wife and his staff up on stage. Sharing the spotlight seemed like the most natural response, he said. “I didn’t do any of this on my own.”