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.]

Posted on June 8, 2009, in Dining, Downtown Vitality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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