The Avalon Restaurant at 2940 Avalon Way s.w. closed with a private event on Friday Feb 3. A combination of high monthly costs, and a drop off in business forced their hand the owners said.
Avalon Restaurant closes; Feb. 3 was their last night
They lasted a year and one month to the day. The team at Avalon Restaurant had high ambitions and by all accounts made outstanding food. In the end however it came down to the monthly cost of doing business. The restaurant closed for good Friday Feb. 3 with some drinks, some memories, a lot of hugs and a few tears.
Avalon opened Jan. 3, 2011, taking over the former Cafe Revo location at 2940 s.w. Avalon Way. They made significant changes in decor and style and took an approach that was consistent with their experience.
Owners Deborah Breuler, Thomas Breuler, and Mary Palmer all have deep backgrounds in the restaurant industry. The Breulers worked Chicago at the highly regarded Zinfandel restaurant, then moved to L.A. to work for the movie business and cooked for people flying on private jets.
After moving to Seattle to be closer to her family, Deborah became the Executive Chef at Maggiano's Little Italy in Bellevue. Palmer was the Bar Manager and a wine expert.
"I really think it is a factor of location," Palmer said. "We're not in the Junction where people walk by every day."
The location was part of the problem, Breuler acknowledged. "We're not a neighborhood joint. We were counting on all condos that went in. I opened on those snow days and nobody nearby came in."
But the big problem came down to rent. The building is owned by Dolly Bennett. "Todd Crooks, her agent, was so cool," Breuler said. "I asked him to help us renegotiate the rent and he said he would talk to her." They were paying $5300 a month or about $15 per square foot. But poor volume recently caused her to fall behind on the payment. "I spoke to the landlord in November and tried to negotiate a better rent. She didn't want to talk about it. You know when she finally wanted to talk about it? Today at 3:00," said Breuler. They had signed a four year lease. "She said if I leave, and leave my assets she will will not sue me."
The restaurant just reached the point where they could not continue. "I'm out of money. I'm out of operating capital."
They made more than $40,000 in lease hold improvements, this after the original building renovation done by Sean and Sofia Goff who converted the building from what had been Murphy's Furniture and created the Cafe Revo. Sean Goff died in 2010 and Sofia later closed the cafe.
Breuler said she has an $8,000 wedding planned for February 25th that she may have to cancel. It is scheduled for The Sanctuary in the Admiral District, also owned by Bennett. "My employees are so great, they volunteered to work the wedding for free," Breuler said.
At the party some speculation was natural. "Maybe West Seattle can't support two fine dining establishments," said Palmer in reference to Spring Hill, which took a similar gourmet approach to food though even Spring Hill announced that on Feb. 8 they will change format to a chicken and whiskey bar called "Ma'ono" serving Hawaiian and mid-Pacific comfort food.
Avalon found a formula that worked they thought, serving 50 dinners a night, packing the place on Tuesdays for $2 Tapas, and getting voted Best Brunch in Seattle by OpenTable.com. But while the food was popular the math did not work out.
The high rent, and perceived lack of parking (they shared a lot with OLA Salon next door) were problems but added to that were the changes made to Avalon Way to prepare it for RapidRide C Line coming in the fall. "In October everything went crazy town," said Breuler, "In the beginning of August I opened for lunch and we were doing pretty good and then they put up all these crazy street signs and nobody knew where to park and people were scared off. Then business tanked in October. It was horrible. I learned you could petition the city to get some of that money back. It's like a thousand pages of paperwork to get it. I don't have enough time for all that."
Leah Barham, a friend of the owners said, "I'm very sad for them. Besides the money, their heart and soul was in this. It was a dream for them."
To make ends meet Palmer took another job in a field she knows, insurance, but the Breulers are far less certain on what's next. They will likely try to find regular jobs. Tom said, "I think of it as a success in its own way because it can't be a failure if we gave everything we had to it. I don't think we left anything untapped or any rock not searched under. I think we have to take satisfaction in that. Every employee that I talked to today basically said it's a great place to work and they'd work for us again. To me that's success."
Palmer concluded, "At least we still love each other after it."