For the first time in its history, the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association endorsed a Dallas mayoral candidate. The GDRA tossed its heft behind Dallas City Councilwoman Mary Poss for mayor on the very day the restaurant smoking ban went into effect, March 1, and a day after a Dallas judge blocked an industry move to snuff the ordinance. "The majority of our membership is very happy with it and very supportive, and then there's another chunk that is pissed off," says GDRA Executive Director Tracey Evers of the endorsement. "They think we're sticking our neck out too far, which we very might well be." Nonetheless, the money is starting to roll in. Restaurateur Phil Romano held a $500-plus-per-person Poss fund-raiser at his home last Tuesday, and Liberty founder Jeffrey Yarbrough is holding "meet and greet" Thursday at his restaurant in Poss' honor. Evers claims the restaurant business has slumped precipitously since the city council approved the ban January 22 at Mayor Laura Miller's urging, though she couldn't provide any numbers. "I noticed some pissed-off [Liberty] customers standing outside in the cold this weekend," Yarbrough says. "And my comment was, 'Hey, thank God we have a vote.'" And politicians must be saying, "Thank God for tobacco." They're the only ones making money on the stuff these days.
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Yarbrough adds that his old Liberty space off Lowest Greenville is being taken over by real estate developer Tom Chawana, owner of River Spice Restaurant at the Tollway and Frankford. This River Spice extension should open in early May following renovations...Recently reappointed Mi Piaci Executive Chef Tim Penn has abandoned his Tuscan post for rock and roll. He's now personal chef for former Eagle Don Henley. Former Riviera chef Michael Marshall has slipped into Penn's void...Gold is passe. Red is the hip hue. Joseph Gutierriz, the former Bamboo Bamboo/Voltaire executive chef, scuttled his plans to craft a tapas restaurant and tiny urban grocery in the former Gold Bar space downtown and has inked a deal to place a tapas bar in the former Bali Bar location, which reopened as Rouge, a plush hipster lounge, before it went red and chewed dust...Steak always wins in the end, at least in Dallas. Chaya Sushi, the Japanese restaurant founded by former Sushi at Stoneleigh chef Masao Yamamoto, was forced to shut down when its lease expired at Preston and Royal in December. It seems the landlord wanted to whittle the already petite restaurant down by some 500 square feet to accommodate the expansion plans of Omaha Steaks next door, according to co-owner Lisa Yamamoto. Look for Chaya to re-emerge before the end of the year.