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Poor Cash Flow, 'Crime-Related Problems' Killed Cedar Grove, Owners Say

Cedar Grove closed this week just shy of a year after it opened on Cedar Springs Road.
Cedar Grove closed this week just shy of a year after it opened on Cedar Springs Road.
Beth Rankin
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For Tim McEneny, principal at Dallas restaurant group NL Group, the closing of Cedar Springs bar and brunch spot Cedar Grove wasn't as abrupt as it seemed.

"Cedar Grove was just exhausting, and it was just bleeding cash," McEneny said in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview with the Dallas Observer. After opening in June 2016, the restaurant closed this week following what McEneny said was a bustling Sunday drag brunch.

NL Group has operated concepts in Cedar Grove's space — at the base of the Ilume Apartments at 4123 Cedar Springs Road — for nine years, first as Dish Cedar Springs and then as Cedar Grove. That location was often a struggle, McEneny says. After closing Dish and relocating it to Preston Hollow in early 2016, NL Group reworked the 6,000-square-foot space as Cedar Grove, meant to be more casual and affordable than its predecessor. It hoped to create a neighborhood hang spot with a woodsy vibe, including "grass-like material and over 50 handcrafted 'trees' made of maple wood," according to a press release.

"We thought transforming it to Cedar Grove and giving it that price point would work, and it didn't," McEneny says. "And it was just unfortunate."

McEneney says other factors influenced his decision to shutter the restaurant and turn the space over to the landlord.

"I'm not gonna blame the neighborhood or the city, but we've had crime-related problems down there that entered businesses, and the homeless situation there seems to be escalating," he says. "It's difficult; it makes people not wanna come down and enjoy that part of the neighborhood."

Although things have been far less combative this year, in 2015 and 2016, Cedar Springs suffered from a series of assaults and hate crimes that rattled the neighborhood and have largely gone unsolved, which has become a sore spot in an area populated heavily by gay businesses. In April, The Dallas Morning News reported on a "bogeyman haunting the streets of Oak Lawn" — a homeless man who has caused issues in the bar- and restaurant-heavy neighborhood for years. The city's surging homeless population has caused problems for a number of neighborhoods surrounding downtown, and the city's police shortage hasn't helped.

In Deep Ellum, another nightlife-centric neighborhood, bar and restaurant owners have resorted to hiring off-duty cops to help patrol the area when it's busy. In Facebook groups for bar-heavy neighborhoods like Deep Ellum, an increase in aggressive panhandling is the dominant conversation.

But Cedar Grove's problems were, at the end of the day, less complicated than the city's issues with homelessness and a dwindling police force. In the end, it came down to money.

"My heart and my passion stays, but there's really only two times you can use the word hemorrhage: It's probably in [owning] a restaurant and on the operating table," McEneny says. "We certainly didn't give up easy. Everyone [on staff] has been paid out and will be paid out. We're gonna leave it with as much integrity as we can."

After clearing out Cedar Grove, McEneny says NL Group will turn its focus to a new project: Jalisco, an 8,000-square-foot Mexican restaurant slated to open in Turtle Creek this fall.

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