Pasta Bar has closed after almost two years of serving downtown Phoenix.
The Italian restaurant, located on the corner of North First and East Pierce streets, closed this past week a little over a month after the nearby restaurant Verde shut its doors.
“I think when people are tightening their belts one of the first things they cut back on is eating out, so that obviously hurts restaurants and especially restaurants that might be higher end like a place like Pasta Bar,” said Dan Klocke, director of planning and economic development at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.
Klocke said the closures were not reflective of the downtown Phoenix area’s viability as a dining area, referencing the opening of new restaurants and businesses.
Pasta Bar’s opening in 2009 came in the middle of a recession, and the owners struggled to hang on during the downturn, Klocke said, but downtown Phoenix is faring better than other parts of the Valley.
“I think that the bottom line is that the restaurant business is a tough business to be in especially as the economy is still struggling a little bit,” he said.
The restaurant opened in February 2009 led by chefs Wade Moises and Nicholas Gentry. Moises left the restaurant for other ventures last August.
Nick Franck, a journalism and political sciences sophomore, said he enjoyed Pasta Bar’s atmosphere and remembered singing along with friends at the restaurant, but conceded that he felt the location might have hindered its business.
“Downtown doesn’t get a lot of traffic other than working people. It isn’t really a place that people go,” Franck said, adding that Pasta Bar seemed to be hidden in a place where people couldn’t easily find out about it.
Verde owner Matt Avilla said he was planning on leaving downtown Phoenix after his restaurant closed seven months after opening.
“There isn’t really a huge pool of available customers. It shrinks at nighttime when the city empties,” Avilla said. “I don’t feel like there are a ton of people who live here who can support a business like this at night.”
Those at other downtown Phoenix restaurants expressed sadness about the restaurant’s closure yet little concern for the future of their own businesses.
Chef Aaron May of Vitamin T, a new restaurant in downtown Phoenix, said it was unfortunate to see the restaurant close but added that it was not reflective of the state of downtown restaurants. He said his restaurant is thriving.
“There have been places that have closed–you’ll probably see other places close, too,” May said. “I don’t think its significant that those two places closed downtown.
“I’m still a big believer in downtown. I’m excited to be down here and be a part of it.”
Dwayne Allen, co-owner of The Breadfruit, a Jamaican restaurant in downtown Phoenix, agreed that there were not any systemic problems in downtown Phoenix, pointing out his restaurant’s recent expansion with the addition of a rum bar.
He said that, as a destination restaurant, they were insulated from many concerns.
Still, Allen said he had felt Pasta Bar should have a similar status, partly because they were trying different things than other Italian restaurants in the area like serving dishes from different regions of Italy.
“Pasta Bar’s closure or Verde’s closure is not systemic or indicative of anything happening downtown,” he said. “Any restaurants downtown that are unique and making themselves a destination restaurant are doing quite fine.
“I was just as surprised as anyone else.” Allen said.
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