Is Laurels history?
A lot of rumors have been hovering around Dallas lately that the highly acclaimed restaurant Laurels will be axed in the wake of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' $14.6 billion acquisition last February of ITT Corporation, Sheraton's parent. "We're at a place where anything could happen," says Laurels' Executive Chef and General Manager Danielle Custer. "I mean, they could turn Laurels into banquet space for all I know." Starwood has been making a lot of noise lately about "integration and synergy" between its Sheraton and Westin acquisitions--the latter purchased late last year. And Westin isn't generally known for owning and managing its own fine-dining hotel restaurants, preferring instead to lease the space to other operators. Custer says several Starwood executives have been through the Sheraton Park Central Hotel, Laurels' home, to share the Starwood management philosophy and make recommendations. "They're not talking about changing the restaurant concept," she adds. "Basically what they're looking at is whether they want a fine-dining venue or not."
The Sheraton Park Central is owned by Irving-based FelCor SuiteHotels and managed by Sheraton. FelCor officials say they have no interest in shuttering Laurels, which has recently become a profit center for the property. "I would say that closing this restaurant is not even being considered at this point," says Sheraton Park Central General Manager Richard Frank.
Could Starwood shut down the restaurant without FelCor's blessing? Not likely, says Frank. "As the management company...you really acquiesce to the owner's wishes in most cases." He adds that any Starwood move to change Laurels would have to be negotiated with FelCor. Custer says rumors of Laurels' demise gained intensity when she announced the restaurant would close during its slowest period--the first two weeks of July, at which point she had planned to visit Seattle. "The rumor had gone full circle," she says, "and people were saying the restaurant's going to close forever in two weeks and that I had been given a job offer in Seattle."
Allen Street's reincarnation
According to a spokesman from the Weitzman Group, a real estate firm, a lease deal is pending on the space that was once home to Allen Street Bar and Grill, which closed late last year. A restaurant company from outside of Texas is set to open a French bakery cafe, similar to La Madeleine, in Allen Street's former McKinney Avenue digs sometime in late August or early September.
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