Joe Tillotson, founder of Barley House and many Dallas bars, dies at 53

Joe Tillotson, founder of Barley House and many Dallas bars dies at 53

Joe Tillotson
RIP Joe Tillotson. Photo courtesy of Katy Tillotson

Joseph "Joe" Patrick Tillotson, a Dallas entrepreneur who helped open popular bars such as Barley House and Katy Trail Ice House, passed away on April 22, after battling cancer for several years; he was 53.

Joe was born on June 11, 1967, the fourth of five brothers, a seventh-generation Texan, and a descendant of Texas patriot Jose Antonio Navarro.

He was an accomplished athlete from an early age, winning the Dallas Times Herald Junior Golf Tournament at age 9, and played high school football (quarterback) and basketball, winning numerous awards, championships, and all-state honors.

He attended Lake Highland schools and graduated from Jesuit College Preparatory in 1986. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 with a BA in Economics, then attended SMU Cox School of Business where he completed his MBA in 1999.

He'd already started founding a string of businesses with friends including acclaimed Dallas bars and restaurants such as The Barley House, Muddy Waters, Bryan Street Tavern, the Metropolitan, City Tavern, Banditos Tex-Mex, Katy Trail Ice House, Katy Trail Ice House Outpost, and Redfield's Tavern, which he opened in 2019 as a gift and legacy for his wife Katy.

Most of the establishments he helped open or found are still open and had a positive impact. The Barley House was an early settler on Henderson Avenue, helping to set the stage for the thoroughfare's revival. Along with its sibling Muddy Waters, Barley House also provided a platform for an entire community of local musicians such as The Old 97's, the Cartwrights, Lone Star Trio, Slobberbone, Sorta, Little Grizzly, Pleasant Grove, Chomsky, and Deathray Davies.

Joe is survived by his wife, Mary Katherine "Katy" Tillotson, four children, two stepchildren, his parents John and Sylvia Tillotson, brothers John, James, Jeffrey, and Jerome, their wives, and many nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will take place at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas on Saturday, May 1st at 12 pm, followed by a reception at Redfield's from 3-6 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Jesuit College Preparatory in the name of the John R. Tillotson scholarship fund.