Turns out those Meridian Room obits last month were a tad premature. Unfair Park spoke with Mike Smith last night, and the former Meridian Room owner confirms that the Expo Park eatery-drinkery will indeed reopen at the beginning of November -- under new management. Indeed, the paperwork's being completed this morning, says Mark Carter of Madison Partners, which owns the property.
Smith says he and partner Simon McDonald only closed the Meridian in September because they were "running out of lease." And, quite frankly, the pair had decided two years ago they were going to begin putting all of their energy and efforts into their Libertine Bar on Lower Greenville Avenue.
"We opened the Meridian Room when we were 24, 25, and it was our first business," Smith tells Unfair Park. "We were always hoping to grow and do other things. We put the Meridian Room out for sale two years ago, and we got some interest in it, but nothing came to fruition. ... We were getting close so many times but could never get it nailed down and here, lately, most of the folks who were interested couldn't get the money together. Getting a loan for a bar is dicey in the best of times, and right now it's virtually impossible. But our landlords are fantastic people and did a lot of things to facilitate a sale for us."
Carter tells Unfair Park he would have preferred for McDonald and Smith to have kept Meridian Room open for a few more weeks -- "because it loses its momentum when it closes," after all, "and we would have liked to have had a smooth transition." But he understood why Smith and McDonald moved on. "And the good news is," he says, "Meridian will reopen and energize itself again."
Carter says the new owners, Vincent O'Keefe and Leonard Smith, who've worked at the likes of the Dubliner and the Londoner, will keep the Meridian more or less the same -- "not too far off the concept," as he puts it. "They will revitalize the Meridian Room," Carter says, "and I think it's very positive." He also guesstimates a November 1 reopening, though necessity could dictate a slightly later start date; it's developing, if you will.
As for concerns that Dallas Area Rapid Transit construction around Fair Park led to the demise of the Meridian Room in the first place, Smith says that's simply not true.
"There's been some construction down there, if you're gong down to Exposition Park or the Meridian Room, you know how to get there," he says. "We don't have too many people traveling from one other part of the city or a suburb, you know what I mean? People have been there before. We just started moving on in recent years, and it wasn't our main focus anymore."
Beginning today, it's someone else's. And come November, it can be yours again too. --Robert Wilonsky