The second shocking shuttering of the week -- after the discouraging closure of the wonderful Sabetta Cafe & Bar -- took place in Seabrook, when employees showed up to Bailey's American Grille on Monday to find it closed after three years in business.
Bailey's was the "fine dining" portion of the Bailey family's restaurant mini-empire, which also includes the popular Sudie's Catfish House in Pasadena and Sudie's Seafood House in League City. And until it closed unexpectedly, Bailey's was every bit as popular as its more low-key sisters, even receiving a prestigious Award of Excellence for the last two years from Wine Spectator for the wine list that had been carefully created by sommelier Chris Colin. Colin seems to have been caught by surprise as much as the other employees; an email from Colin indicates that he was unprepared to be unemployed, and Bailey's publicist said that she doesn't know Colin's plans at the moment.
Equally talented was Bailey's former chef Roland Soza, who had been a long-time sous chef at Brennan's before this move. His time spent at Bailey's will keep unfortunate company with other ill-fated restaurants on his resume such as Zula and Aries. Fortunately, Soza moved to Bistro Alex some months before the Bailey's closure and has been working there as a sous chef, returning to the Brennan's family once again.
So what happened to Bailey's? According to a press release sent out at midnight, the closure is a result of a domino effect of bad luck. "We've withstood a lot in a short period of time with major damage from Hurricane Ike, layoffs at NASA and a faltering economy," said Brad Bailey, owner of the restaurant and son of the Baileys who started the Sudie's chain. But when one door closes, another one opens.
Or, in this case, when you purposely close one door, you'd better have another one planned to open.
"While it was an extremely difficult decision to close Bailey's American Grille, it is with great anticipation that we look forward to our next endeavor at Bailey's on the Bay," Bailey stated in the press release. Bailey's on the Bay is planned to open this fall as a combination restaurant-bar-banquet facility. The five-story waterfront venue will also have a bed and breakfast component and a glass-walled observation deck overlooking the harbor and Galveston Bay.
It seems odd that Bailey would choose to close what appeared to be a successful location (despite claims to the contrary) only to open a much more involved, much more intricate operation next to the Fertitta-dominated Kemah Boardwalk. Bailey's was a fine restaurant and seemed do well in the relatively wealthy enclave of Seabrook, separated from the hullabaloo of the boardwalk and its 24-hour carnival atmosphere. To see a restaurant that prided itself on growing its own herbs and produce -- a restaurant that employed a chef and sommelier of exceptionally high calibers -- seemingly abandon those underpinnings and move to Kemah is disconcerting.
More troubling is a report from Channel 2 news that aired last night. In it, employees claimed that they hadn't been paid in three weeks and had shown up to work only to find the restaurant closed without any notice. Equally upset was a bride who had already paid more than $10,000 to book the banquet facility portion of the restaurant. Bailey has offered to repay her deposit, but that doesn't account for the new invitations she'll have to order, according to Channel 2.
In an interview with reporter Courtney Gilmore, Bailey indicated that he was already taking care of the employees' back pay and would be mailing their paychecks through certified mail. In a statement to the Houston Press, Bailey simply said, "I'm trying to regroup and am paying everyone I owe in full."
Trying to regroup while opening an enormous new restaurant? Bailey has set up a tough row to hoe for himself in the swampy Kemah waterfront.