UPDATE: Liquid Gold Hospitality emailed its response, which can be found at the end of this post.
The building at 807 Taft once housed the original Antone's Famous Po' Boys & Deli. By 2005, it had closed and reopened as Gravitas, owned by talented chef-turned-restaurateur Scott Tycer and manned by the equally talented Jason Gould. Gould departed in a firestorm in 2009, in a move that the Chronicle documented as a "chefs' rift grows into a chasm."
Now, less than three years later, Gravitas is closed.
"Its a beautiful restaurant," said Ginger K. Winship, operations manager for Kraftsmen, who confirmed the closure this morning. "It was really sad having to pack it all up."
Winship said that a notice had been left for employees, informing them of the last-minute closure and an opportunity to pick up final paychecks from Tycer at Kraftsmen Baking, who owns the lease on the space once again after having sold it to investors Liquid Gold Hospitality Group last March.
"Regrettably, we have to shut down Gravitas Restaurant effective Sunday, January 8, 2012," the notice read. "The closure is driven by the failure of Liquid Gold Hospitality, under the terms of our Operating Agreement with them, to maintain current payments on our bank note."
The note further alleged that Liquid Gold Hospitality "blatantly violated the terms" of their operating agreement with Kraftsmen, putting the restaurant several months behind on loan payments.
Andrew Kaldis at Taft Venture owns the actual building at 807 Taft, while Tycer -- and later Liquid Gold Hospitality -- operated the restaurant inside the space through a lease with Kaldis. Selling the lease (along with all of the equipment in the building) allowed Tycer to focus on Kraftsmen, although he decided to purchase the lease back from Liquid Gold Hospitality when the restaurant's lease costs began to exceed its sales figures. But it appears that this last-minute effort to save the restaurant was too little, too late.
"We have tried to negotiate with the bank, but they are forcing us to close the doors and they are taking our equipment in lieu of payment," explained the note as to why the restaurant is now bare. Liquid Gold Hospitality did not return a request for comment; we'll update this entry if they do.
The closure comes a year-and-a-half after rumors that Gravitas was shutting down in July 2010, a month after Tycer's other restaurant -- Textile -- closed its doors for good. (This, despite the fact that Tycer told the Press it was only for a "summer vacation.") Tycer's former restaurant, Aries, closed in 2007 and he now mans Kraftsmen Baking full time, which keeps busy running two cafes and supplying bread to many of Houston's popular restaurants.
Gould, meanwhile, has been working with Cyclone Anaya, revamping the Tex-Mex classic's menu. On his Facebook page today, Gould posted: "Even after everything that happened its still sad to see Gravitas close. So many good memories, great guests & loyal employees."
For his part, Tycer -- who bought the Gravitas lease back from Liquid Gold Hospitality this past November -- is sad too. Said one of the final paragraphs of the note to his now-unemployed staff: "Words cannot express how sorry we are that this had to happen with such short notice. Scott Tycer and Gravitas Management did everything in their power to keep the restaurant open for our loyal customers and keep all of you employed."
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Stephen Ross of Liquid Gold Hospitality emailed us his response to the closure:
It is unfortunate that Mr. Tycer has chosen to place his private circumstance in the public media, again. The facts as he represented them are not true, unwarranted, and have no basis whatsoever. Coconut Grove, Ltd. increased the operating revenues at Gravitas dramatically and resolved many issues at the restaurant. The management agreement was terminated at the end of October. The operation was returned to Mr. Tycer in better financial condition. Mr. Tycer has chosen to close the restaurant for his own reasons, none of which involve Coconut Grove, Ltd or Liquid Gold Hospitality Group, LLC. GO TEXANS!!!!!