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The Last Days of Lido

Those whispers you've been hearing about the closing of Lido [3201 Travis, (713)523-9295] are true. "Yeah, the rumors are ugly," says Khon Lu, whose parents own the restaurant. "But they're all true. We are definitely shutting it down."

The last time we visited Lu, he was starring in a vintage Midtown melodrama: gloating landlords twirling waxy mustaches, saintly parents staging a three-day protest, brave young restaurateur hurling himself between customers' cars and rumbling tow trucks. All this, and urban development, too, as downtown's renaissance fever spreads westward.

As we reported this spring [Cafe, May 27], real estate speculators purchased the eyesore center that has housed Lido for the past three years. "Those carpetbaggers!" exclaims Lu scornfully. "They're from New York, you know."

The speculators, apparently hoping to raze and flip the property, tried to pry the family out of their long-term lease, attempting to jack up their rent and even posting a sign in the parking lot announcing a $4 charge for the privilege of jolting through its potholes.

But where coercion failed, money ultimately prevailed. Two months ago the speculators settled their differences with the Lu family in cash. "I don't know the exact amount, but my parents were satisfied with it," admits Lu. "They're sorry to have to pick everything up and move and start all over again in a new location, but they are happy with the settlement."

Thus the way was finally smoothed for the sale of the property. Houston Community College has purchased the old Southwestern Bell building across the street to house its administrative offices. Unfortunately that site doesn't have parking space. "There's just no extra parking around here at all," explains Lu, "except for our lot." So HCC also bought the Main Elgin Center, complete with smelly sewers and scabby parking lot, from "the carpetbaggers." Lido's home, without doubt one of the ugliest buildings in Houston, will soon be torn down and replaced with -- you guessed it -- a parking lot.

Lu tells us that Lido will close no later than October 31. As yet, his family has no new location in mind.

"I'd really like for us to move to the Heights," Lu says. "There's really not a lot of dining choices up there except for Mexican food, and I think it'd be fun." His parents, though, have a different agenda. They hope to find a restaurant space that's already built out and ready to go. "They don't want to invest a lot of time and effort in designing a place and dealing with decor," says Lu. "It's too much distraction. They just want to serve good food -- that's what they do best."

So if you need one last plate of Rock 'n Roll Tofu or lemon-garlic steak or beef in coconut curry sauce to tide you over for the foreseeable future, better drop by Lido before Halloween. After that, who knows?

"Oh, well," says Lu, with a philosophical shrug. "This is the way the world works."

 
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