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A viral photo and fake Twitter account led people spurred outrage in Austin.
Given how quickly East Austin is gentrifying, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine a Chili’s popping up on a street corner—a scenario that played out in one of the better real-life trolls in recent memory.
Austin locals took up arms when it seemed like a new Chili’s would be built on East Sixth street, part of a popular hub for music and culture in downtown Austin. Photos on social media showed a building on a corner of Sixth street with Chili banners draped along the sides and posters that advertised the coming business. Someone even made a Twitter account under the name “Chili’s East Austin” to announce the new opening.
Yes, it's true. We can't wait to serve you East Austin! Follow us for updates #chilis
— Chili's East Austin (@chiliseast) July 12, 2017
Alas, the official Chili’s Twitter account debunked this new location, calling it #fakenews. People should’ve seen it coming—Chili’s are meant for suburban shopping centers, not downtown hotspots—but the pace of East Austin’s development made the hoax at somewhat believable.
— Chili's Grill & Bar (@Chilis) July 12, 2017
— 💬 (@sweetjohn) July 12, 2017
The news of this fake Chili’s really upset some locals, especially since the news came the same day NPR released a story about the displacement of East Austin’s population as result of gentrification—a fact that prankster was no doubt playing off of. East Austin is a historically black and Hispanic part of the city purposefully segregated back in the 1920s. Over the past decade, gentrification has pushed out locals on the East side and made Austin the only city with an increasing population but a simultaneously decreasing black population.
Although we know Chili’s in not going to be taking over the property, it’s unclear at the moment what will be built there in the coming months. According to Austin360, the property was purchased last year by a group named 1200 East 6th Partners LLC.
Property on the East side keeps going up in value, and a spot like the one the fake Chili’s was going to inhabit is a coveted space for new businesses hoping to be the center of a now bustling hub of new restaurants, venues, and nightlife—at the expense of the continued displacement of residents of color and their businesses. The Chili’s troll could be the ultimate comment on this troubling trend.
Sarah Jasmine Montgomery is a Daily Dot contributor whose writing and criticism cover all things pop culture, with an emphasis on how communities of color impact physical and digital cultural spaces. Her writing and photography have also appeared in Texas Monthly, the Fader, Complex, and Billboard.