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Gerard’s Paella in Downtown Santa Rosa is Closing, Again

“I just don’t have the staying power,” said owner and chef Gerard Nebesky, who has been featured on Food Network and is a popular caterer at large festivals like BottleRock.

Chef Gerard Nebesky of Gerard’s Paella y Tapas in downtown Santa Rosa is second-guessing his second-guessing.

After announcing in November his plans to close his 18-month-old restaurant on Fourth Street, a flood of paella fans poured in, prompting Nebesky to say the restaurant would remain open. Continued business challenges, however, have Nebesky once again announcing the restaurant’s official closure on Feb. 3.

“I just don’t have the staying power,” said Nebesky, who has been featured on Food Network and is a popular caterer at large festivals like BottleRock, Maker Faire and Ironman competitions.

He does plan to reopen for Sonoma County Restaurant Week (Feb. 21-March 1) and host pop-up events in the current space, the former location of Arrigoni’s Deli. Nebesky has a three-year lease on the space which ends in 2021.

Gerard’s Paella y Tapas founder/owner Gerard Nebesky. (John Burgess)

In November, Nebesky cited the city’s homelessness and concerns about parking as major hurdles to the success of his business. He wasn’t alone, as several downtown restaurants — Mercato, Stout Brothers, Jade Room, Tex Wasabi’s and La Vera Pizza among them — slogged through a long period of disruption from the reunification of Old Courthouse Square only to close in 2019 after the much-hoped-for downtown revitalization failed to materialize. Fires, power outages and still-lackluster tourism also have contributed to lasting pressures for many Sonoma County businesses.

“I walk around downtown at night, and nobody is full,” Nebesky said of downtown businesses. Though the city did ease parking fees during the holidays, Nebesky said much of the concern about parking is stigma rather than fact.

“People just choose the path of least resistance,” he said.

More concerning, Nebesky said, is a lack of downtown vibrancy in the evening as retail stores close for the day and family-friendly options dwindle and the bar scene takes over. That, with the ebb and flow of the homeless population downtown, have been challenging.

“I love the five-year plan for improving Santa Rosa, but I can’t wait. I’ve learned Santa Rosa is more of a breakfast, lunch and bar town. It’s just not an upscale dinner kind of place,” he said. “No one walks around before or after. They just go home.”

Closing the doors to his restaurant, however, isn’t simple. Nebesky said his three-year lease means he must come up with at least $7,500 in rent each month unless another business takes over. To help defray that cost, he plans to host pop-up dinners in the restaurant space and look at other creative ideas.

“We could do a dining club. It could be a commissary kitchen space. I think it could work as a great breakfast space,” Nebesky said. “The space was such a passionate build-out, and a lot of people really love it.”

For now, he’ll focus on several days of “blow out” paella specials and a final party on Feb. 3., his catering business and figuring out next steps.

“I’ve met such a great group of people, and that’s what I’ll miss more than anything. The restaurant may not have been a financial success, but socially, it’s succeeded 100 percent.”

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25 thoughts on “Gerard’s Paella in Downtown Santa Rosa is Closing, Again

  1. I will not pay to eat or shop downtown. I used to go to downtown/mall a lot and stopped cold and never went back when the mall parking garage started charging to shop. Now there’s even worse metering all over and the stupid paving over of the Mendocino main artery. This level of traffic self sabotage only shows ridiculous levels of penny pinching greed and stupidity.

  2. I am so sad to say goodbye to this place, but I must share this story.

    When I first heard of this closing, I stopped in for a final bite to eat. I was sad, but grateful I had one more opportunity to chow down there. I was told I could sit wherever I wanted. I did, right by the window. I was alone. A few minutes later, two women came in with children and they were seated near me at a table. The waiter brought them water, but not me. He then took their order. He NEVER made it over to me. After waiting, I ended up leaving. I was very disappointed and decided that I would not go back. I’m not sure what happened, it was certainly not a busy time in there-the staff were behind the bar, chatting. What a bummer.

  3. One thing not brought up in any articles regarding Santa Rosa restaurants closing – the high price of eating out in the county. My husband and I had breakfast a couple of weeks ago at a local “diner,” (not an over-the-top Wine Country destination). We both ordered breakfast dishes, small juices, and my husband had a piece of pie. With tax and tip it came out to $47.67 and, that’s for breakfast, the cheapest meal to make. But then the fact that Gerard is paying $7500 a month for rent kind of explains it. The high cost to purchase or rent commercial or residential property in Sonoma County is driving people away,especially young adults and retirees.

  4. Rents are simply to high . Owners and renters need to wake up to a business’s ability to pay high monthly rent costs in fluctuating economic and demand locations.All downtown business employees should be required to park on the top floors of near by City Parking Garages or be shuttled to outside downtown parking areas.Parking should be 2 hours max , with sidewalk meters with immediate towing for non payers. Give the lost souls some help and understanding or follow Captain John Smith’s ,Jamestown Virginia 1608 advice. ” He that will not work shall not eat “.

  5. Should we follow Captain John Smith’s instructions as the leader of Jamestown, Virginia’s in 1608 ? ” He that will not work shall not eat ” ?

  6. It seems like based on numbers for his lease, he should not close but streamline and pare down his business just to make enough to cover the lease cost and food cost, even if he has to work harder himself with much labor.

    1. Profit Margins in restaurants are razor thin. And minor changes in “streamlining” add up to a completely different dining experience. I didn’t love this place, but going there, you could see clearly what he was doing and why he was doing it. Making more efficiency would have wrecked the experience.

  7. As someone who has traveled widely in Spain over a great many years and knows Paella, this guy owns the category in CA in my experience. I ate at this place several times from the outset. The problem he had was one faced by many restauarants in Sonoma. When he was there the food was terrific when he wasnt, it took a giant step down. And those steps downward just kept descending over time. His analysis on downtown is spot on. It just doesn’t have “ambiente” as they say in Spain. You eat. You go home.

  8. Quelle Surprise. Too specialized in a place that is not that sophisticated and there are not enough people here to appreciate it. Open a breakfast and lunch place. It would do better, as there was one like that for years before this restaurant. It was called Arrigoni’s Market,

          1. don’t teach anyone politics. Don’t tell lies
            What? Lies!
            You are personalizing and polarizing an impersonal, fact based comment.
            That’s typica Libtard style demonization.
            As to ‘teaching’, please!
            Who ask for/seek your deep knowledge?
            Self-appointed visionary I suspect.
            Visions of the self-anointed.
            Meanwhile the whole of Sonoma is circling down the drain, awash in societal pathologies ….

          2. You changed your original comment when you first told me it was me and how I felt. Now it has been edited. You sill don’t know me or how I vote and I will not share it. Just calm down.

        1. There are a mix of people everywhere. It is too simplistic to say all of one town or state is one party. Not everything has to do with politics, Sometimes is it is trends, social preferences, demographics of the townspeople (younger, older, seniors, etc etc).

  9. That’s odd. Downtown Santa Rosa is such a nice, well managed place. I can’t imagine why all these businesses are closing.

  10. Sorry to see you close. Always had good meals there, but I never went at night, only lunch. His observations about downtown SR at night are quite accurate and not likely to change, considering both SR and the BOS have no plan….and I mean one that actually works. Right now we are in the news, world wide about our homeless problems. Not quite what I want to read about our home.

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