Just had a lengthy talk with Wade Hampton, marketing director for N9NE, who does confirm the bad news: The steakhouse in Victory Park is no more. And, he says, there is no single reason for its shuttering last night. "I think that you could probably come up with a pretty lengthy list of reasons," he says. "The Observer did a pretty good job of covering them last week."
Hampton says N9NE Group has spent several months trying to decide whether to shut down or solider on in Victory Park. He says the owners considered closing last fall, but waited to see if Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars crowds could bolster receipts. But, in the end, that just wasn't enough.
"We contributed enough," he says. "We've been very ambitious about how long we left this open, and we gave it more time than most restaurant groups would have. All of us wanted to see this work out. Then, all of the sudden, the economy in the last four months went south. And, being realistic, people are having a hard time paying rent, and they're rolling back on the luxurious things in life. I see that happening with my friends. We're in a super-premium category and have to deal with the economy like everyone else."
Hampton is hesitant to be too critical of Victory Park or Ross Perot Jr.'s Hillwood, which developed and owns the property. After all, he says, the group still has Ghostbar in the W Hotel, and "it's one of the greatest nightclubs in the history of the city still doing its thing. I'm reminding myself of that hour by hour." He says that come Monday, he will announce "six months' worth of artists" coming to Ghostbar, "so people can see what we've got." And, he says, "We've still got two great locations in Chicgo and Las Vegas, so we're lucky."
Closing N9NE's Dallas location "was not an easy decision," he says. "Not at all. We invested in a neighborhood, and all of us would say we're still waiting to see that neighborhood succeed one day. What it ends up being 10 years from now, who knows. But the market couldn't support it, and we didn't see the support. ... Believe me, if we were making real money, we wouldn't be doing this."
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But N9NE's shuttering isn't the only bit of news to emerge today: Matt Pulle and I spent the better part of the morning making calls concerning N9NE's demise, and one of the first he placed was to Elise Mikus, who, according to this cached Hillwood Web site, was in charge of "retail opportunities" at Victory Park. When Pulle started working on his story, he was told by city officials that he needed to talk to Mikus. That's because she was the person who dealt with the City of Dallas concerning Victory Park planning matters. Mikus was, in fact, the person Victory Park restaurant owners would go to when they had to deal with the city concerning, oh, things like parking issues.
But an updated Victory Park contact list doesn't contain her name, and Pulle was indeed told this morning that Mikus, a VP of development, no longer works for Hillwood. Several Hillwood executives and spokespersons contacted by Unfair Park today have not returned our many messages. A voicemail was also left at Mikus's home.
It's unclear why Mikus, who's also an attorney, is no longer with Hillwood. Sources told Matt that Mikus was good when dealing with shopping centers, but that she didn't have substantial experience in urban mixed-use development, which helped contribute to the current state of affairs down there. Indeed, another Victory tenant, home-decor store Haven, announced this week that it's moving to the West Village.
Alas, in related news, Ross Perot Jr. says Texas is the best place to wait out this recession. Because "Texans have always been around these big cycles ... we're very aggressive and very positive, and that's not going to change."