14 Tucson restaurants closed in 2014

A collection of Tucson restaurants who packed it up this year.

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  • Cheba Hut’s Tucson franchise, known for its cannabis theme and toasted subs, permanently closed its doors, at 1820 E. Sixth St., after an inventory sale Friday.

    The shop’s owners, Steve and Colleen Bigelow, would not comment, but notified their customers via a Facebook status update on Wednesday that “after six plus years” Cheba Hut Tucson would be closing at the end of business Friday “due to uncontrollable circumstances.”

    “We loved representing such an awesome franchise to possibly the coolest customers ever,” the Facebook post continued. “Met chill people, made great memories and will always be thankful.”

    Cheba Huts feature a cheeky marijuana theme in their artwork, menu names (large subs are called “blunts”) and slogans (“We deliver — if you’re high, we’ll fly”). Tucson’s had more than 6,300 likes on its Facebook page.

    The owners say a Cheba Hut will likely return to Tucson, but with new owners and a new location. Other Arizona shops are in Mesa, Glendale, Tempe and Flagstaff.

  • Choice Greens has until the end of the month to vacate its space at 4205 N. Campbell Ave.

    The restaurant’s owners were notified by their landlord a few days before Thanksgiving that they had to be out in 30 days, according to a news release. The restaurant was later told that the plaza had been sold “and that a Mexican restaurant will be opening in the space,” the release stated.

    “We are actively searching for an alternate location, but the short 30-day notice will make it difficult,” Choice Greens co-owner Paolo DeFilippis said in a written statement.

    He could not be reached Thursday afternoon for additional comment. The plaza’s landlord also could not be reached to comment.

    A spokeswoman said DeFilippis planned to notify the restaurant’s 20-plus employees Thursday night of the closure.

    In the release, DeFilippis said he hoped to place his affected employees in his other restaurants — Choice Greens on Speedway, 2829 E. Speedway; and Graze Premium Burgers, 2721 E. Speedway.

    Choice Greens has operated in Plaza Antigua on Campbell for nine years, next door to the plaza’s anchor tenant, Trader Joe’s.

    “The forced closure of our Campbell location is especially difficult since we are in the holiday season, but it is out of our hands,” DeFilippis said.

  • Days shy of three months after taking back her troubled Foothills restaurant The Abbey, Sandy Ford is throwing in the towel.

    The restaurant’s last day was Sunday. Ford informed her staff on Monday and hosted a final staff dinner Tuesday before announcing the closing in a Facebook posting Wednesday afternoon.

    Ford said she is exploring options to sell the restaurant’s assets to another operator. The proceeds would go to the restaurant’s 5-month-old bankruptcy.

    In her Facebook posting, Ford thanked “Tucson for embracing our restaurant and being so supportive for the past four years.”

    She and her now former husband, Brian Metzger, opened The Abbey at 6960 E. Sunrise Drive in November 2010, as the American comfort food sister to their northwest-side restaurant Jax Kitchen. The Abbey was named after their daughter Abigale; Jax, which Metzger closed in January, took its name from their son Jackson.

    Ford got custody of The Abbey in July as part of her divorce settlement with Metzger, whose company Metzger Family Restaurants operates Gio Taco downtown and Poppy’s Kitchen at La Paloma Resort. The Abbey had just come through a series of legal entanglements that included Metzger filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early May.

    Ford said the bankruptcy proved more challenging than she had anticipated.

    “I had hoped for a better outcome when I took over ... but unfortunately, too much damage had been done,” she said. “I just couldn’t move forward.”

  • The owners of the longtime Tucson Mexican restaurant La Fuente on North Oracle Road made it official on Sunday: The restaurant, popular for its Sunday mariachi brunch and host to generations of special occasions from anniversaries to quinceaneras, was closed.

    The restaurant served it s last meal on Aug. 29, according to a note posted on its website.

    "The worsening economic environment, which began in 2008 and (for many) continues to this day, started a business slowdown that could not be reversed," according to the note posted by General Manager Yuliana Portillo, speaking on behalf of the owners Carlos and Mary Jane Portillo, according to the note.

    A Facebook posting just before noon Sunday repeated the announcement. 

    La Fuente in mid-August apparently was attempting to launch a night life aspect to the restaurant, according to a Facebook page under La Fuente Night Life that listed it as a sports bar, cafe and night club.

    See more in Tuesday's Arizona Daily Star.

  • The owners of V Fine Thai Dining downtown made it official on Thursday: The restaurant they operated for three years at 9 E. Congress St. and for six years before that near the University of Arizona was closed.

    The announcement came more than a month after the restaurant actually closed in early May, the result of what chef-owner Redman Jarrell said was two years of trying to rebuild business lost to the downtown modern streetcar road construction project.

    Jarrell, who owned the restaurant with his wife Vila Jarrell, said they and other Congress Street business owners were told the road work would take four or five months; it stretched into nine-plus after it started in early 2012, he said. During that time, business dropped dramatically and the restaurant was not able to make ends meet. He said they fell months behind in the nearly $6,000 monthly rent.

    “We had a verbal agreement that we were abiding by. We were paying an extra $3,000 a month” to catch up,” Redman Jarrell said.

    Jarrell’s landlord, Mike Perlman of Holualoa, could not be reached Thursday to comment.

    When the bulldozers and asphalt trucks finally left Congress Street in spring 2013, and the roads were once again fully opened, the downtown entertainment district had gained a handful of dining options including Flagstaff transplants Proper and Diablo Burger, and Mexican restaurant Penca.

    “There were so many more restaurants downtown. We went from maybe six or seven to well over 15,” Jarrell said. “There was so much more competition that once those streets did reopen, a little business started to pick up again, but it wasn’t like it was before.”

    Jarrell said the couple hoped to boost business by extending the restaurant’s hours and introducing a night life aspect that included music. But that also proved to be a bust after residents of the new 1 East Broadway mixed-used housing complex complained to police.

    “They were calling the police on us every weekend,” said Jarrell, whose wife did not want to comment for this story. “Vila and I met with them trying to do whatever we could to pacify them. We turned down the music, but you can only turn it down so much when you are trying to have a night life.”

    Jarrell said the couple appealed to city officials to raise the minimum noise levels allowed, but got little relief. Recently, though, city officials have indicated they would be willing to allow downtown businesses to raise the volume from the 62 decibles allowed under current law to 85, which comes a little too late for Jarrell, he said.

    “We were trying to stay open as long as possible and see this noise ordinance thing through, come to some sort of agreement,” he said. “Vila and I dumped everything we had into this business.”

  • The clock is ticking on the Something Sweet Dessert Lounge.

    The 11-year-old sweets shop and restaurant at 5319 E. Speedway is expected to close for good at the end of this week, said General Manager Vera Sanderlin. No date has been set.

    Sanderlin said Something Sweet’s owners, who’ve had the shop since May 2011, are negotiating a possible sale of the business, which could mean that it would move. If it’s not sold, it will close for good, she said.

    Something Sweet is open from 3 to 11 p.m. today and Thursday and from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

  • Tilted Kilt, a Tempe-based, “Celtic-themed” sports pub chain will soon open a location in the old home of Risky Business, 250 S. Craycroft Road.

    That Risky Business closed on Sunday to make way for the new-to-Tucson concept, which will launch later this summer, according to a press release.

    It will be one of more than 94 locations throughout the United States and Canada, including four in the Phoenix area.

    The first Tilted Kilt opened in the Las Vegas Rio Hotel and Casino in 2003.

    The brand is coming to Tucson, courtesy of restaurant owners Wes Harris and Bob Raynor.

    Harris already owns a Tilted Kilt in Boise, Idaho.

    Raynor owns the other two Risky Business locations in Tucson, one at 6866 E. Sunrise Drive and the other at 8848 E. Tanque Verde Road. They will remain open.

    Aside from the pub grub, including dishes such as the roasted garlic fries and Irish nachos topped in a Guinness beer cheese sauce, Tilted Kilt was also conceived as a "pub staffed with beautiful servers in sexy plaid kilts and matching plaid bras,” according to the restaurant's website.

  • Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill at the Tucson Mall closed Friday night.

    A sign posted on the window suggests the business was booted by the mall. Mall officials could not be reached to comment today.

    The notice, posted today by mall owner General Growth Properties, said the landlord had "retaken possession of these premises as a direct result of your breach of the contract for rental." It went on to say that the landlord also seized the contents of the building with the intention that they would be sold within 60 days if the the owners of Toby Keith's, Scottsdale-based Boomtown Entertainment LLC., could not make good on unpaid rent.

    Boomtown officials could not be reached for comment today.

    Toby Keith's was open for business Friday night. Employees were given no warning that it would be the last night, former manager C.J. Urban said on a Facebook posting this morning.

    "My heart goes out to the staff who lost their jobs overnight. I feel so bad for them and I promise I did not know this was coming," Urban posted on Facebook.

    Toby Keith's opened on New Year's Eve 2012, months later than Boomtown officials had projected when they announced in summer 2012 that they would move into the 20,000-square-foot space across from the Cheesecake Factory in Tucson Mall. They had anticipated opening in October 2012.

    At the time Boomtown CEO Frank Capri said Tucson was ""a great market for us. We love the town, love the people. We're going to be there for a long time."

    The restaurant/bar is not owned nor affiliated with its namesake country singer, who was at the Tucson restaurant's grand opening last April. Toby Keith slipped into Tucson to meet with fans and perform couple songs before he headlined Country Thunder in Florence.

  • Pappoule’s Greek restaurant, a Tucson institution with more than 30 years of serving gyros, kebab platters and falafel at Tucson Mall, has closed two of its three restaurants.

    That leaves just Pappoule’s Opa at Foothills Mall on the northwest side, which owner Michael Cotsones said will remain open. He has plans to expand the menu with more traditional Greek dishes, he said.

    Cotsones said he decided to close his food-court restaurants at Park Place and Tucson Mall — where his family had been one of the first food-court tenants, opening in March 1982 — once his leases expired at the end of January.

    “The recession hurt a little bit. And the mall is not quite what it was,” Cotsones said. “The traffic doesn’t justify the rent any more. We did good there for years and years. I don’t want to disparage anything. They made us offers and we decided not to do it.”

    Brighid Brown, marketing manager for Tucson Mall and Park Place, said both malls are adding new eateries: Sbarro Pizza and Sarku Japan at Tucson and Kelly’s Cajun Grill at Park Place. “Our food courts are very popular with our shoppers,” she said.

    Cotsones’ parents, John and Angeline Cotsones, opened Pappoule’s in the Tucson Mall after moving here from their native Chicago. They opened the Park Place restaurant a dozen years ago and introduced Pappoule’s Opa at Foothills Mall seven years ago. In December the family renewed that lease for another 10 years.

    Pappoule’s also had a location downtown from 1995 to 1998 and made inroads into Phoenix in 2002 with a food-court eatery at Fiesta Mall that has since closed.

  • Ted’s Country Store, on North Tucson Boulevard near East Glenn Street, will close its doors for good at the end of business Saturday after nearly 34 years.

    Ted Contes and his wife, Angie Contes, opened the store in August 1980 as the only local specialty store in the area, selling imported and domestic gourmet groceries. The store’s country decor and deli added to its appeal, and it soon became a popular lunchtime destination.

    Several years later, at 90 years old, Ted was ready to retire. The business was sold to another couple who owned it for a short time, before the store’s current owners, Peter and Sheila Butterbrodt, bought it in 1997.

    The Butterbrodts ran the business as Ted had, catering parties, serving up its popular deli sandwiches and selling gourmet foods. Most popular among its customers has been “Ted’s favorite sandwich” and a lobster bisque the deli serves on Fridays.

    A little over a year ago, though, the couple decided to eliminate groceries and focus on the deli, catering and beer and wine sales.

    “Albertsons and Safeway were selling the exact same things,” Peter Butterbrodt said. “And they could get them at better prices than an independent can.”

    And now the couple has decided to close Ted’s completely.

    “It’s time for us to move on and do something a little different,” Peter Butterbrodt said.

    The Butterbrodts are entering a partnership to open a Jerry Bob’s restaurant at North Silverbell and West St. Mary’s roads. “We’re looking at a May 1 opening,” he said.

    They are optimistic about their new venture. “It’ll be very successful,” he said. “It’s a really nice area, well established. And there’s a lot of growth.”

    Ted’s Country Store had seen a decline in business the last few years. Part of that was due to a sluggish economy.

    The other part was growth on Tucson’s west side and in downtown, Sheila Butterbrodt said. “People have many, many more choices than they did 13 years ago, and it’s made it a little harder.”

    Nevertheless, the couple will miss Ted’s. “We’ll miss our customers the most,” she said. “We have amazing customers who have been super loyal to us, and that’s the hardest part.”

    Diane Dale, a Tucson artist, has been a loyal customer since the Butterbrodts bought Ted’s. “I’m very sad,” Dale said. “Best BLT ever. I guess I’ll stay in my studio and paint ’till I find out where they are to get my BLT.”

    Customer service also kept Dale going back. “They’re always ready to try and make their customers happy,” she said. “If I’m not eating a BLT, I’m dieting, so they always try to make something special that I would like.”

    At lunch Tuesday, Dale said she heard customers lamenting about where to go for lobster bisque after Saturday. Lucky for them, the Butterbrodts plan on serving it at the new Jerry Bob’s when it opens.

  • Nimbus American Bistro & Brewery on East Tanque Verde Road has closed, the second Tucson area restaurant to call it quits this week.

    Monkey Business in Marana closed Monday. (See related story.)

    Nimbus Bistro officials could not be reached for comment, but a sign on the door said the restaurant was closed. Its Facebook page had a posting Sunday regarding the Arizona Wildcats basketball game, but by Tuesday evening, the page had been taken down. No one answered the restaurant's phone and the building itself has been dark and empty since Monday.

    Nimbus opened in September 2009 as a joint project of Tucson restauranteur Bob McMahon and Nimbus Brewing Co. owner James Counts. A year into the venture, McMahon, who owns the building at 6464 E. Tanque Verde Road, pulled out and listed himself as strictly the landlord.

    (McMahon in early January filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just as the bank was coming in to auction off his eight-building complex at North Swan and East Fort Lowell roads. The property also is home to McMahon's Prime Steakhouse.)

    A year after McMahon's exit, Counts' role in Nimbus Bistro was minimized when Phoenix businessman Brandon Williams and Tucson businessman Don Norris bought out Counts' majority ownership and took over the bistro.

    Counts maintained minor ownership, but said at the time that he wanted to focus his energies on brewing beer.

    "I'm going to go back to focusing on beer, which was beginning to be tough to do with the bistro and the brewery. It was getting to be too big a job for one individual," Counts said at the time.

    Nimbus Bistro had a short-lived outpost in Scottsdale. Williams and Norris opened Nimbus American Bistro & Eatery at 7001 N. Scottsdale Road in March 2012 and closed it that November, according to the Phoenix New Times.

  • Monkey Business Eatertainment, the Marana pizza and arcade restaurant that quickly became a kids' party destination soon after it opened in spring 2009, closed on Sunday.

    Mother and son owners Jay and David McGuire pulled the plug on their lifelong dream at the end of the night Sunday, two months shy of their fifth anniversary.

    On Tuesday, David McGuire was meeting with a Realtor to have the 12,000-square-foot restaurant listed for sale. He said he and his mother had decided they were done struggling to make ends meet.

    It took the McGuires four years to build the restaurant after buying land at 8581 N. Silverbell Road in 2005. Months and $700,000 after breaking ground in early 2007, the contractor walked off the job, leaving the pair out of their money and forced to take out more loans to complete the project. In the end, they ended up investing nearly twice the $2 million they thought they would initially spend to build Monkey Business.

    See the full story in Wednesday's Star.

  • Brian Metzger is closing his 5½-year-old, financially troubled Jax Kitchen on the northwest side and opening a new restaurant in the Foothills.

    On Feb. 21 — Metzger’s birthday and the day his second wife is due with the couple’s first child — he will open Poppy Kitchen in the space that used to house Janos Wilder’s J Bar at La Paloma Resort & Spa, 3770 E. Sunrise Drive.

    The 3,000-square-foot space has been vacant since Wilder closed J Bar and its more upscale sibling, Janos, next door in May 2012.

    The last day for Jax — Metzger’s first restaurant — will be Feb. 16. He said he had already decided that he would close the restaurant at 7826 N. Oracle Road, at West Ina Road, when his lease is up in June.

    “I wish we had made it to the end of June, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it at that corner,” Metzger said.

    Metzger Family Restaurants also owns The Abbey, 6960 E. Sunrise Drive, which has been open three years; and Gio Taco, which opened last fall at 350 E. Congress St., at the Cadence student housing complex downtown.

    Poppy Kitchen will borrow dishes and influences from Metzger’s other restaurants, including Jax’s goat-cheese appetizer, steak tartare and cast-iron ribeye steak. Longtime corporate chef Virginia “Ginny” Wooters is curating the menu, Metzger said.

    Poppy Kitchen’s announcement comes two weeks after Jax completed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, which Metzger filed in early August to give himself breathing room from investors. Creditors accepted the plan, and a bankruptcy judge confirmed the plan on Jan. 3, said his lawyer, Scott Gibson.

    According to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records, Metzger owed the Internal Revenue Service $160,000 and the state Department of Revenue $6,700. At the time, he also owed investors and lenders $185,000, according to court documents, and vendors $60,000.

    Metzger said three-quarters of his initial Jax investors have moved with him to Gio Taco and Poppy Kitchen. In an email he sent to customers late Tuesday, he said he is looking for more.

    “The company is growing, so I always say it’s good to know who’s out there,” Metzger said.

    Metzger had been talking with La Paloma officials since last June as the restaurant and resort were one year into a two-year, $35 million improvement project.

    La Paloma General Manager Glenn Sampert was not available to comment on Wednesday, but in a written statement he said Poppy Kitchen fits nicely with the resort’s nearly finished redevelopment.

    “We took the time necessary to find the right organization to partner with, and Metzger Family Restaurants has been creating extraordinary dining experiences here in our community for many years,” Sampert said.

    Poppy is named after Metzger’s grandfather.

  • Umi Star, rising restaurateur Jason Anderson‘s Asian-fusion restaurant on North Campbell Avenue, closed Wednesday after an 18-month run.

    Anderson said the closing was more of a “transition” as he and his two business partners look for a bigger space to keep up with Umi Star’s growth.

    “This needs to be in a bigger space for it to compete and for it to do what it needs to do,” he said, noting that he has identified three possible locations including one downtown and another farther north.

    But Umi Star’s rebirth will be on the back burner for now as Anderson focuses on his new Latin-Asian fusion concept Nox, to open Feb. 1 in the old Cafe Jasper, 6370 N. Campbell Ave. Nox will explore another side of Asian fusion, with strong Latin influences alongside New American accents.

    Umi Star’s closing comes several months after Anderson temporarily closed the restaurant and invested money to revamp the menu and renovate the space, 2502 N. Campbell Ave.

    The work was in response to a failed health inspection in August that cited the restaurant for six critical violations including food not stored at a proper temperature and employees not washing their hands after handling raw foods.

    Two weeks after the restaurant reopened Sept. 30, Umi Star failed a follow-up inspection, which found a broken sushi cooler that didn’t keep the fish at the proper temperature. The restaurant fixed the problem and passed its reinspection Oct. 28.

    Anderson said the health inspection woes played no role in his decision to close the restaurant.

    “I think it is really a matter of the big picture,” he said, ticking off Nox; his downtown project Hudson, which he hopes to open in August; and the planned opening in late April of an outpost of the Phoenix fast-casual sandwich shop Original Chop Shop as projects that top his to-do list.

    “We had one of our best weeks ever last week, so as you can imagine from a staff perspective it’s a little confusing and from a customer perspective it’s confusing. But I’m thinking of the Umi Star brand. We need to get it in a bigger space. It kind of clicked together.”

    Anderson said he is partnering in a new fast-casual concept set to open in the Umi Star space with an international group that he wouldn’t identify. He said he hoped to have the restaurant open by mid-March. He and that group also are exploring plans to take Umi Star to Mexico and Phoenix, he said.

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