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Published: Thursday, 1/15/2009

5 area eateries are post-holiday casualties

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Every January brings retail failures, but this year the post-Christmas casualty list could end up being larger than normal.

Not quite three weeks after the holiday season, five area restaurants have closed their doors for good. Also, a well-known sporting goods retailer is closing down its main store, the victim of a leasing dispute.

"We did well the first week, and it was downhill after that," said Gil Evans, a partner in Stingy Lulu's American Grille in Maumee, which closed the last week of December after opening just four months earlier.

"The economy had a lot to do with it. We opened when everything was happening with the banks," Mr. Evans said.

"It was a completely new concept. It was a big place with a lot of overhead. We just opened at the wrong time," he added.

Another casualty is San Francisco Oven in Sylvania Township, which opened just more than two years ago and closed the last week of December.

"It was struggling with a lack of brand knowledge. There really wasn't much in the name, frankly, that told people what we were all about," owner Kevin Lent said. The struggling Toledo area economy played a large role in the decision to close.

"To build a brand in a market is so expensive and we gave [a] yeoman's effort for a couple of years, but we could never get over that hump," he said.

Yet another restaurant that closed at the end of last month is the Ruby Tuesday at Westfield Franklin Park, which has operated in the mall since 1993.

A spokesman for the chain, based in Knoxville, Tenn., did not return calls seeking information. But the eatery firm announced in December that it would close 40 restaurants by March and another 30 over the next two years, places that are unprofitable or have undesirable leases.

A Ruby Tuesday on Glendale Avenue in

Toledo remains open.

But Mezzmerize Mediterranean Grille, which opened in 2007 in the location formerly occupied by Sidelines restaurant, is no more.

The 300-seat restaurant developed at great expense by Detroit restaurateur Sam Bazzi closed this week. The posh restaurant included glowing emerald pillars, a sweeping black granite bar, and a luxurious wine bar as part of its decor. Mr. Bazzi could not be reached for comment.

January's casualty list includes the Rouge Bistro in Sylvania Township, an upscale restaurant opened in 2007 by local chef John Wesley. He could not be reached for comment.

On the nonrestaurant side, MC Sports, which once had four stores in the Toledo area, is closing its store at Secor Road and Executive Parkway at the end of the month. That leaves just one store in the area, in Rossford.

Ed Rix, vice president of MC Sports, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., said the economy did not force the closing, but rather a dispute with the landlord of the retail center where the store is located.

"The landlord and us could not come to an agreement and we lost our lease. We are looking for a replacement facility, but we couldn't find another location soon enough," Mr. Rix said. "We will keep looking."

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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