Long story short: Daniel Kuhlman, who abruptly shuttered Roam two days ago, leaving fourteen staff members bereft of jobs (including his former exec chef Tony Clement), and flipped out when yours truly photographed the crew he'd left high and dry, has sold the space to Gary Hvizda, one of the original owners of the downtown Gumbos. That restaurant closed on November 4, and its former home is now occupied by The Kitchen.
And to answer the burning question on everyone's brain: Kuhlman has absolutely nothing to do with this project.
"The building is owned by Las Margaritas -- our next-door landlords -- and Daniel is walking away; he won't be involved in any way with Gumbos," promises Hvizda, adding that he and Kuhlman first met to discuss a deal in November of last year, two days after Kuhlman had closed his first restaurant in that space, Wild Catch, which sunk when then-chef Justin Brunson and his staff cruised out the door.
"Daniel and I met for the first time on November 22," recalls Hvizda. "I told him that I couldn't do what Justin was doing, but that I could put some seafood on the plate, make it look and taste good and bring customers through the door."
Instead, Kuhlman reopened the space as Roam and hired Clement to spearhead the kitchen. "Daniel mentioned that he was talking to a few other interested parties, and then he opened Roam and hired Tony, but I continued to keep my eye on the space," says Hvizda, who divulges that "some of the ink went on paper in early March," including the paperwork involved in transferring the liquor and business licenses. The deal will close next week, at which time Hvizda says he will take possession: "I'm super-excited to reopen Gumbos in a really cool neighborhood, and I'm in this for the long haul."
But while Gumbos is taking over Roam, it won't be the Gumbos of downtown. "We had 7,500 square feet at the downtown Gumbos, and this space is only 1,360 square feet. We're making this restaurant more approachable, more casual and a simpler machine to operate," explains Hvizda, who notes that the menu will be smaller than the board at the original Gumbos. "We're keeping the core menu items, but we're slimming the menu down and concentrating a lot more on local products and ingredients," he adds.
The space will remain largely untouched. "We're adding some art, painting the outside walls and bringing in music that fits with our theme, but aside from that, we're not changing a whole lot when it comes to the space," Hvizda says.
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Gumbos will open with dinner service in mid-April, followed by lunch in May and brunch in June. And if you're an ex-employee from Roam, Hvizda would like to extend an invitation: "If anyone who was with Roam is interested in talking with me about a job, I invite them to get in touch with me."
Just don't count on Kuhlman for a recommendation.