Daily Archives: June 8, 2009

Recession hits Valley restaurant scene

Cafe LaBella in midtown Phoenix closed in March.

[Source: Barbara Yost, Arizona Republic] — The recession has hit the Valley restaurant scene like a smack in the head with a frying pan.  The casualty list includes some of the liveliest, most established independent venues whose demise is shocking dining experts.  Since the end of the year, at least 50 Valley restaurants — and counting — have closed.

The most recent announcement came May 29, when James Beard Award-winning chef Nobuo Fukuda said he would shutter Sea Saw in Scottsdale on June 7.  While Sea Saw, under partnership with Peter Kasperski (Cowboy Ciao,Kazimierz World Wine Bar, Digestif ), was doing fine, Fukuda says, he’s found opportunity to set up his own shop, possibly in midtown Phoenix.  “I’m just waiting for approval on the name I want, and, well, the money to do it,” he says.

As summer approaches, restaurants want to cut their losses, says David Rothschild, former culinary instructor and co-owner with wife Barbara of EATiQuette, a training service for wait staff.

Palatte, a bucolic patio with a garden setting in downtown Phoenix, closed in March.  Café Labella, run for several years by Mark and Debra LaBella in midtown Phoenix, also turned out the lights in March…

In downtown Phoenix, rumors had Stoudemire’s closing, but owner Bill Smith of the Smith Hospitality Group says the restaurant will simply close for dinner this summer, as is customary for many Valley restaurants. Smith, who owns several other cafes in the area, says the prognosis might not be so good for his Maria’s Mexican Grill at the nearby Collier Center.  “We’ve never been able to get the dinner business going,” Smith says.  In part he blames the Collier Center’s reluctance to allow him proper signage that would attract, for instance, riders on Metro Light Rail.  Now Maria’s is in limbo as Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is working with the company to try and save it.  “The mayor is very proactive downtown,” Smith says. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix gallery raided on First Friday for allegedly selling booze illegally

RAID 1

Phoenix police officers stand in front of UM Gallery on Friday evening (photo: Jonathan McNamara, Phoenix New Times)

[Source: Benjamin Leatherman, Phoenix New Times] — Things got a little crazier than usual during First Friday in downtown Phoenix this past weekend after Phoenix police officers raided UM Gallery (the Fifth Street art space run by local hip-hop promoters Universatile Music) on charges of serving beer and wine without a permit.  The incident started just after 10 p.m. when about a half-dozen officers shut down the gallery’s First Friday celebration, pulling the plug on a few DJs spinning hip-hop music outside on the porch in the process. The cops then detained five members of the UM posse that were inside, including promoter Reuben Martinez, artist Jules Demetrius (who’s artwork was on display), and Dusty Hickman (who also goes by the DJ handle Pickster One).

Martinez later told me that they were serving cans of PBR and cups of Charles Shaw wine (a.k.a. “Two Buck Chuck”) to patrons in exchange for a “recommended donation” to help support the gallery.  Hence, he claims that they weren’t in violation of state liquor laws.  The cops obviously disagreed, as Martinez, Demetrius, and three others were cited for selling booze without a permit (which is a Class 2 misdemeanor).  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Non-profit restores 1916 downtown Phoenix house

[Source: Arizona Republic] — City officials, preservationists, and downtown Phoenix residents [celebrated] the restoration of a 1916 adobe house… at 1246 E. McKinley Street.  The home was purchased by the non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix in 2003.  “Residents in the Garfield neighborhood had a strong desire to have this rehabilitated… because of the historic value,” said Krista Schwartz, the organization’s director of real-estate development.

The non-profit completed a five-month, $130,000 renovation.  NHS plans to sell the house for $110,000, but the buyer’s annual income must be at or below 80 percent of the area median income.