Houston diners will be surprised to hear that yesterday's service at Eleven:Eleven at 607 West Gray might have already been the last time they turned off the lights and locked the doors. Eric Sandler of Culturemap Houston reported yesterday about the closing, but at the time, chef Kevin Bryant said that the last night would be today, Saturday, May 16.
That's not the only surprise. We were surprised ourselves to hear a dramatic difference between Bryant’s statement to Culturemap Houston and what the landlord told us this morning.
The building is owned by Noonky, Inc., an investment company established by Haritos Bibas and his son, Stephanos Bibas. Longtime Houston diners will remember that the Eleven:Eleven building once housed Bibas' One’s A Meal and later Bibas' Diner. The Culturemap Houston story says, "The restaurant's owner had decided to sell the building to new operators."
We called the number on Noonky's Inc.'s web site this morning to find out who the new owner will be, and the call was answered by Haritos Bibas. He spoke with us and had his son, Stephanos Bibas, call back with a statement.
Both the elder and the younger Bibas say that our call was the first time they’d heard that their tenant, Eleven:Eleven, was planning to close immediately. Furthermore, Stephanos Bibas says that they have no intention of selling the building and that he did not say anything to that effect to Bryant this past Wednesday.
The Houston Press asked Bryant if he would like to give another statement on the matter. He seemed as surprised by what the Bibases had to say as they were by the assertions in the Culturemap Houston article. Bryant wrote that he needs some time to have some meetings before providing a new statement. We'll update this post if he has anything to add about the circumstances under which the restaurant is closing. It is currently unclear who told Bryant that the Bibases were selling the building.
An anonymous reader tip we received this morning indicated that the restaurant was already shut down, and Bryant did confirm that Eleven:Eleven is closed for good already.
UPDATED, May 16, 2015, 5:01 p.m.: Bryant says that after the Houston Press's inquiry to the Bibases, they sent their attorney to Eleven:Eleven to lock out their tenant "to prevent vandalism." The move also denies the restaurant's employees one last night of income. Bryant stands by his statement to Culturemap Houston as being his understanding of the situation at the time. The owners of Eleven:Eleven are Joe and Anna Issac. Negotiation discussions were primarily between them and the Bibases. There was apparently a major communication failure between the two parties that led to the early lockout and closing.
UPDATED, May 18, 2015, 8:01 a.m.: Reader Maureen Hall went to Eleven:Eleven on Saturday for what was originally thought to be the last day of service. Instead, she encountered Haritos Bibas locking out his tenant and putting a sign on the door. She wrote, " "The sign on the door said locked out because of back rent issues. Mr. Bibas was there and said he's reopening One's a Meal."
No matter whose decision the closing was, it leaves the staff scrambling for new jobs. Houston restaurateurs are dealing with an overall shortage of experienced staff, so the Eleven:Eleven employees may be able to find new positions quickly.
The restaurant is closing right about at its two-year anniversary. It initially opened as “Eleven XI” in May of 2013, but rebranded to “Eleven:Eleven” after some customers had difficulty figuring out the roman numeral in the name. It was known for its Southern coastal cuisine.
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