Thai Elephant, a restaurant with locations on Adams Street and Central Avenue in Phoenix and another location in Tempe, will be closing its downtown location Oct. 25 due to financial problems, restaurant owner Dhanuttkun Voraprechapanich said.
A native of Thailand, Voraprechapanich, also known as Noni Vo, opened the Phoenix restaurant four years ago, when it was one of the only Thai options available at that time. Since then, such eateries as Thai Basil and Thai’d Up have opened near Vo’s location, creating problems with competition.
“It’s very sad because we were the first Thai restaurant around that location open for dinner, but now, business has gone down because of different competitors,” Vo said.
The landlord of the renting space will substantially increase the rent price after Thai Elephant’s lease ends in October, said David Roderique, president of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. That increase combined with the building’s plumbing problems led Vo to decide against renewing the lease and instead close the Phoenix restaurant completely.
Khang Nguyen, a server at the downtown location, will be transferring to the Tempe location along with other employees after the restaurant closes. Nguyen said he is excited to transfer, but he will miss working downtown.
“I have been working at the downtown Thai Elephant for a year, so I am very sad it is closing,” Nguyen said. “We have a lot of regular costumers come in here, so everyone is pretty upset.”
Some downtown students also expressed sadness about Thai Elephant’s closing. Lyndsi Byers, a 20-year-old nursing junior, said she was a frequent customer of the restaurant.
“I really like Thai Elephant because it’s a very friendly place with great service and cheap prices,” she said. “I am downtown almost all day because of my nursing major, and Thai Elephant was an easy place to grab a quick bite to eat while I was on a break.”
Byers said it is unfortunate to see the restaurant close downtown, but she will definitely go to the Tempe location to eat now because she enjoyed the food and service.
For now, no new Thai Elephant locations are slated to open, but that does not mean there is not a possibility, Vo said.
The Tempe restaurant, located on University Drive between Hardy Drive and Roosevelt Street, will remain open. Vo’s sister, Gigi, will also be branching off of Thai Elephant to open her own Thai restaurant called 5 RCha Thai in Tempe. 5 RCha Thai is expected to open in early November this year and will provide a to-go service for Thai food lovers that are in a hurry, Vo said.
As for the downtown students and employees, there will still be other options to get Thai food fix.
“Assuming Thai Elephant does not open another location downtown, they will certainly be missed,” Roderique said. “However, we have plenty of other alternatives for the students.”
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Clarification: October 4, 2011
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that Downtown Phoenix Partnership President David Roderique is the landlord of Thai Elephant’s renting space. The confusing sentence has been cleaned up to better reflect its actual meaning.