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As Yassine brothers meet fate, vacant bars receive new life

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TWC News: As Yassine brothers meet fate, vacant bars receive new life
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Two of the three Yassine brothers were back in federal court Friday to receive their sentences for money laundering convictions.

Mike Yassine, the founder of Yassine Enterprises, was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison. His brother Hadi was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by deportation upon his release.

In October, Mike and Hadi Yassine were convicted of laundering money through several downtown Austin nightclubs including Pure, Treasure Island, Fuel and Spill. Yassine Enterprises had been the target of a federal investigation since 2007. Much of the evidence gathered was credited to the undercover work of Moe Yassine, a cousin.

Since a federal raid on the Yassine’s bars last March, the clubs have sat idle—an eyesore in the downtown entertainment district.

However, some of the prime spots are now shaping up to have a brighter future. Earlier this month, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission canceled nine liquor licenses for bars formerly operated by Yassine Enterprises. That made it possible for Doug Guller to secure a license and open The Chicago House, a craft beer bar on Trinity near East Sixth Street. It’s where Fuel nightclub used to be.

"We really think that East Side, East Sixth, has the opportunity to be something that it hasn't been for a long time, or ever," Guller said.

Gueller said when they first walked into the venue, it was mess.

"When we walked in it was a disaster,” he said. “It took a lot of convincing for my team. My top guy, Chris, understood the vision, but he knew that there would be a lot of work to do in turning this place into what it is today."

What it is today has a lot to do with the building's history. It used to be called the Chicago House in 1885, when it was a boarding house for people passing through Texas.

Those people passed through on a railroad built in 1871, which led to Austin’s boom.

"This increased commerce brought people looking for jobs, or people bringing their stuff to send on the train back to the East Coast or back to the West Coast," Mike Miller with the Austin History Center said.

There are plans for other bars, including Bourbon Girl at Sixth and Brazos, formerly Spill night club. Also, 413 Bar will be at Sixth and Trinity, the former site of Treasure Island.

The Yassines also had bars in the Warehouse District near Fourth and Colorado. Castro’s Warehouse will open at the former site of Hyde.

The third Yassine brother, Steve, was found not guilty of money laundering, but pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in December.

He was sentenced to one year in prison, and faces deportation after his release.

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