I knew the news was going to be bad as soon as I got William Kennedy, one of the two partners at Santa Fe Tequila Company (along with Joe Falco), on the blower this afternoon. It was in his voice, in the defeated slump of his shoulders that I could actually hear over the phone. I asked him how things were going.
"I've been having the worst month of my life," he said. "But other than that...you know..."
Actually, I didn't know, which was why I was calling. What I did know? That the original Santa Fe Tequila Company, at 901 West Tenth Avenue (shown above), had closed last month, and the second location, at 2630 West Belleview Avenue in Littleton, was reported to be in dire straits. That there'd been rumors of it closing, like, immediately, running through the staff. That some of the employees hadn't been paid in weeks, a report that had me reaching for the phone..
Restaurants close, I get that. In this kind of economic environment, a lot of restaurants are going to be closing as soon as the small mercy of the holiday season is done. But I take it very seriously and very personally when I hear about restaurant staff -- floor, galley, bar, whatever -- getting stiffed.
Now I asked Kennedy how bad things were. "Bad," he said. "With the economy, the credit crunch..." He paused, collected himself -- honestly hurt and a little embarassed. "We're gonna have to close it down."
According to Kennedy, the Littleton location is likely to be dark before the end of the week. But he also told me -- promised me, actually -- that everyone will "absolutely get paid."
"My partner is taking care of it right now," he said, explaining how things had grown so tight, he and Falco had been hoping to bring another partner in just to cover basic operating expenses: payroll, utilities, paying off the produce guy. Unfortunately, that plan fell through.
"No one is going to get into the restaurant business right now," he said. And without that fresh infusion of cash, there was no other option but to close.
"We really put our hearts and souls into it," Kennedy continued, but he knew that things were going bad months ago. When the counts started to drop at the original location on Santa Fe, he started to worry. Slow nights demoralized the staff. The food in the kitchen no longer turned over as fast as he would've liked. And even though the website initially said the Santa Fe closure was going to be temporary, it quickly became permanent.
Then the same things started happening in Littleton. "It got that Titanic feeling, you know?" he told me.
I do. But the good news is that it looks as though everyone who's owed one is going to get a check -- a stand-up move by owners who found themselves in a tough spot. I'm hoping for the best for Kennedy (who still has his other restaurant, The 9th Door, to watch over), Falco and the rest of the staff, but still...
Merry fucking Christmas, huh? -- Jason Sheehan