BiteClub

Restaurant P/30 closes

With a Facebook note to friends, the 18-month-old restaurant throws in the towel.

UPDATE: P/30 owners plan to honor gift certificates if/when the restaurant is sold to new owners…

A NOTE ABOUT GIFT CERTIFICATES: We are deeply sorry if you recently purchased a gift certificate-it was never our intention for this to happen. We will do everything in our power to make sure that the certificates are honored by the next owners, it will be written into the contract. Thank you for your patience and understanding, and know that we would never, ever take advantage of you.

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With just a few day’s warning, West County comfort food eatery P/30 has shuttered. On Friday, owners Patrick and Christine Tafoya sent out upbeat notes to Facebook friends and fans offering dining discounts on food and wine with promises of a last group hurrah. But come Monday, the party would be over.

Oozing with charm, family-friendly, casual and mid-priced deals, everything seemed to point to P/30’s success early on. So what happened?

The couple say the decision to close the eighteen-month old restaurant was purely about family, or rather, the lack of it during their brief stint as first-time restaurant owners. Both were almost constant fixtures at the location, while juggling the demands of parenthood and Christine’s design business. Said Patrick on Sunday night from behind his computer: “I am closing the restaurant for the sake of my family.”

Reached on Monday morning, he said he’s feeling a mixed bag of emotions about the closure. “Some moments I feel nothing but relief and excitement about the future. Some moments I’m struck with sorrow and pain from what we’re walking away from,” the chef said. He plans to take some time off and most likely return to the restaurant scene. “It’s what I am and what I know how to do.”

But already a legacy is clear: Kudos for aggressive social networking (which I personally commend and which influenced me significantly), appealing to a diverse cross-section of diners (from young winetasters to families and older couples) and Patrick’s commitment walking the walk with small local producers and pushing the boundaries on creative comfort food. While not every dish always worked, there was clearly passion and love behind the cooking. And for that, P/30 will be remembered.

But the restaurant biz can be brutal, and despite the hard work and commitment of the Tafoyas, some mixed reviews about the menu, the location and the locals may have contributed to it’s ultimate demise…

The Location: Chef insiders had long shared concerns about the remote countryside location half-way between the town of Sebastopol and Bodega. Undoubtedly one of the most charming summer and fall getaways in Wine Country, pros know the road to the coast has less appeal during cold and rainy winter and spring months — especially for notoriously fickle Santa Rosans. The closure of numerous restaurants in the location — most recently Cafe Saint Rose — speaks to the challenge. Tafoya counters: “It’s full of potential. We were never to fully capitalize on that, but in no way is this a doomed location at all.” He plans to offer his services as chef consultant if he can find a buyer.

The Community: Though it’s often been a polarizing discussion, restaurateurs also know that West County success hinges on keeping Sebastapolians coming back on weeknights and through the slow season. Though P/30 seemed to have consistent support within the community, the ghosts of Restaurant Eloise and West County Grill serve as painful reminders to chefs who stumble in the eyes of locals — whether by price, service, attitude or consistency. “Look,” said Tafoya, “The locals have been nothing but kind and supportive. We’ve gotten to know a lot of people and we’ve had nothing but support.”

In the end, a restaurant with so much potential closing is a loss regardless of the reason. Many of us are still smarting over the departure of the Eloise crew and understand the almost insurmountable difficulty of owning a restaurant. So here’s to taking that chance, Patrick and Christine. And here’s to hoping we’ll see you again soon.

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39 thoughts on “Restaurant P/30 closes

  1. I wanted to go out to eat last night, looked up P/30 to see their menu, and was sad to see they closed. I enjoyed going there many times in the last year, by myself, with family and friends. I liked P/30. Sorry to see you go. Good luck to Patrick and all the friendly helpers there.

  2. I think that the way that the treated their employees is disgusting, and I will never step foot into any establishment they pursue after this because of it. As hard as a business owner works, you’re still nothing without your staff. Those are people with families too — some single moms that needed their job… and to throw them out in the cold on 3 days notice makes my stomach turn.

    I am a parent, I go to school and work FT too, so I am familiar with working hard & long hours. Hire a GM or suck it up for a few years, it’s not rocket science. You made a bad decision, and the worst part about it is you’ll probably sit at home as a happy family while your former employees figure out how they are going to keep the electric bill on and food in the house.

  3. Knowing the area well, this particular site has had it’s share of good and bad eats for the last 20 years. I’ve eaten at P-30 three times and had a great experience with food every time. As a business owner myself I try and support other local businesses and refer. I really do believe Patrick would have made it instead of throwing in the towel. It takes long hours, dedication, sacrifice and a good 2-3 years to gain traction. From what I’m told this place had a very good reputation and great staff up until last week. There were many disgruntled employess who depended on this job only to find out they had only three days to find a new job. THAT is NOT RIGHT! Patrick really dropped the ball on people who trusted and supported him.
    Some advice the next time around, keep your eye on the ball and expect to sacrifice, ESPECIALLY in this very rough economy. Rewards will pay off later.

  4. The location made it a destination restaurant but the food didn’t stand up to that class. Not that the food was bad–it wasn’t… maybe a little lackluster or timid–but the menu was small and not worth the drive. Many was the time my SO and I headed to Sebastopol with thoughts of P/30 but opted instead for K&L or PizzaVino or even Zazu, simply because those destinations were worth the drive. It’s sad to have to say this about a restaurant that did just about everything else right, from local and seasonal sourcing to sensible portions and fair prices, but if you want to make people drive 30+ minutes to enjoy those qualities, you have to step up your game.

  5. Social networking? Take it for what it’s worth. If you feel that those whom you “social network” with are smarter than you are, know more about what you like than you do, and even have the same taste, go ahead.

    Otherwise, social networking is just a security blanket for decisions that you have no confidence in making yourself.

    1. Actually, social newworking is as old as the hills. it’s called Word of Mouth. And we believe folks we know and trust more than folks we don’t. The method is slightly updated (anyone remember phones with a “party line”??) but the practice is well established in human relations. Sometimes we know an avaid diner we come to trust. Sometimes we latch on to an actual writer. Yelp is like looking for fine food at the Mall and tweets seem most effective letting folks know about free fries at Arby’s. It’s groovy for a while but then it goes mainstream and downscale and then we go back to trusting those we know and, well, trust.

      And what a lot of folks don’t realize is that lots of folks go OUT OF the business of restaurants, not bust, because of a host of reasons. Family, not really liking the public contact, roads being blocked for too long in the year…You don’t have to loose your shirt to want to pack it in.

      The P30 location does have stregnths and challanges – and it’s not one I’d recommend for first time operators. The fantasy of owning a restaurant should often stay just that – and leave seasoned pros to the harsh realities of making others’ fantasies come true.

      Wish I’d gotten there. I’ve heard a lot that makes me think I’d have loved it. I wish them health and happiness and much success in whatever they choose next.

  6. Not surprised — lousy service, so-so food, limited menu and high prices. What does it take for chefs to get the message when their customers let them know it isn’t working???

    1. Are you kidding, best food. To get those kinds of combinations of food you would normally get smaller portions and stuffier service. Slow, maybe laid back service is what I\d call it. This was one of our favorite restaurants in Sonoma County! You can\t get local food like that nearly anywhere else in Sonoma County. So sad. Where would you rather eat?

  7. Patrick, I applaud you following your dreams. Some of us never do, and this life is what we make it. So, I honor your vision and effort, no small feat. You will rise again and until then, take care and thanks for putting yourself and your food out there for the world to see and taste, very classy, my friend, well done. Bravo

  8. so it goes: enjoyed my one dinner there recently when the thule fog descended and I had out of town guests… As the designated driver, I had no problem with the road but I drive it very often due to work and am familair with the twisties and turnies and need to slow down at night. Having lived in SF for many many years, I think perhaps a combo of road fear-distance perception (evidenced by the many comments) and also the fact that most of us who moved up here from the city do not eat out often (otherwise were it a lifestyle priority why leave the city). I enjoy cooking in plus my budget um, rather demands it these days. I really enjoyed my dinner, the quantity may have looked “too small” but I don’t like to feel “stuffed” and I was thoroughly satisfied. Prices I found to be fair and on par with what you’d find in any fine eating establishment with the focus of P/30.
    a Forestvillian

  9. The landlord/s have written off what was a dump to begin with and suckered this tenant too. It remains a 1940’s part time burger, ice cream or sandwich stand into which P30 crowded some shiny stuff and pulled off a good review for Bite Club, apparently on a warm sunny day.

    Three months a year you’ll have a nasty drive from Pleasant Valley to Barnett Valley.. narrow, winding, missing lines along the sides and center, with many jarring potholes.

    As you exited your car, you may step into another pot hole, wetting your shoes. You walked toward the entry as water cascades from the roof. You miss it, but it splashes your legs and shoes, (you’re damp and wish to get back in the car, but you solder on).

    You reached the entry door just miss a direct waterfall. Inside you notice how loud it is.. a low ceiling amplifies from all the hard surfaces. You may wind up crowded at the doorway so each swing you miss, still gives you more damp cold that began when you exited your car.

    They seat you at one of the too close tables. Maybe back to the cold walls or windows. As you’d started to warm up and the door opens and you’re blasted again.

    You reflect that even Dennys, Carrows, or I-Hop solved such issues. Ah, you have read the review.. you are hopeful.

    Now, sounds replace water as the assault weapon. Wait.. bread and butter.. line item.. Wine.. a large glass with an expensive sample. You still have hope for some highly praised food.. salty and dried out.. and not much of it will be your payoff. Out of three or four items, you may get one or even three good.. quite small, but good.

    You begin to wonder how drunk that reviewer was? Cheap.. not here.. but for the providers as both the landlord and the hosts leave it up to the wait staff to cover up for a sin or two.. but this very old and little improved dump had them all.

    Great eats, Cheap.. may too often be translated into roadside rip-off.

  10. Patrick and Christine,

    Many of us know what it is like to change our plans or put off what we thought were our hopes and dreams for the sake of our children. People talk about overhead and carbon footprints and try to find some negative reason for the closing of a business that was not theirs. I commend you on following your dream in the first place. I commend you for doing a wonderful job advertising, networking and yes…making wonderful food. I commend you for putting it all on hold for the sake of time…time to spend with your young family. You will do just fine.

    Be well. Let us know where to find the Chicken and Waffles. 🙂

  11. They should just refund all unused gift certificates? It does not seem fair for the new owners to have to honor their gift certificates. If they intend to reimburse the new owners, it would be just as easy to reimburse the customers directly.

    1. When we bought our (non-restaurant) business a few years back, outstanding gift certificates were figured into the contract. It’s standard and not a big deal.

  12. That location seems a little doomed. Last Tuesday my girlfriend and I were on our way to the coast to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather and passed P/30 and she said “Oh that’s where P/30 is” and I replied “I’m surprised, I doubt they’ll make it much longer, so many restaurants have occupied that space and all have failed” Then this weekend she called to me after she read about them closing.

  13. We tried SO hard to enjoy this place, especially because we like to support new local restaurants. The food was decent, minuscule, and certainly not “cheap” (bad, BAD self-imposed label). Their breakfast was a total bust.
    Truthfully, it was the “aggressive social networking” on facebook that greatly influenced us as well… into avoiding the place. Social networking is a GREAT way to draw business, but it (depending on the tone of the poster) can kill it entirely. It got to be common to see posts about “ghost hunting reports” with no follow-up, accusing/being offended by other restaurants supposedly “copycatting” their chicken & waffles (hello, Roscoe’s?) recipe, celebrity sightings (major no-no if you want these folks to feel a sense of privacy), and even a post that read “the last two weeks of Giants games have almost killed us as a restaurant. We hope that you can come in to support us by coming in to dinner in the next several days…”. The ‘Giants’ post was deleted within an hour or so (but not before the 1600+ ‘fanship’ could see it… oof), and then one with a more “support local restaurants” tone went up. The last month or so of posts involved coming up with slogans for their outdoor (and invisible in winter lighting) vinyl signage. I can only assume that they spent a lot of time and money on the “pretty packaging”, a trap that many designers fall into.
    All in all, I just felt bad for the talent behind the restaurant’s “voice”, because it got lost in the shuffle.

    1. Social networking can be a double edged sword, for sure. There’s a fine line between information and too much information, and I have been known to cross the line. Someone once told me that with social media, you have to make the assumption that people care what you have to say and “like” you. Because you can really turn people off pretty easily, too.

      Roger Praplan from La Gare was talking to me yesterday about all this, and he had a little gem of wisdom — restaurateurs are in the hospitality business, and they need to make people want to come to their restaurant. They need to remember to be hospitable. I think that’s good advice to remember.

      What I responded to with p/30s social media was that they actually used the medium — at least early on — really well. They let people know specials and what was on the menu and a few little personal notes that made people respond. I HATE it when i just get lame-o promotional stuff from restaurants and there is absolutely no personality. I don’t need to know your innermost secrets, but make me care about you. Make me interested. It’s a cheap way of staying connected. There were some not so stellar moments for sure, but their social networking at least had a voice and personality.

  14. I have had the pleasure to eat at this lovely place a number of times. I will miss P/30. I found them to have great food, wonderful atmosphere and charming employees. I hope Patrick lands in another local restaurant so we can once again enjoy his delectable treats.

  15. If the restaurant was making any money, they would have hired a manager to take over time-consuming operations. Let’s keep it real, folks: The business was in the red. That’s all this is about. Pretend it was about family all you want. The business wasn’t making enough money to sustain itself.

  16. My heart goes out to Patrick and Christine knowing the time, energy, heart, emotions and most importantly money that goes into a new restaurant venture, especially one a little remotely located. They opened P/30 during a very difficult time for the restaurant business and had many fans. However, it takes people (lots of them) every night to make a restaurant work given fixed costs, staff, food and wine expenses. Under the best of circumstances, restaurants operate on a slim margin and late fall and January through March are really hard out in the West County and generally require some significant personal subsidy from the owners or backers of a restaurant to make it through these periods. We know this personally as it has been difficult for us at Bistro Des Copains in Occidental too since the down turn in the economy. I know that we and and several other West County eateries are hanging on hoping that the economy will get better soon and we will see the West County become more of a dining destination. If this doesn’t happen, you will see other restaurants follow the demise of Eloise, Mosaic and P/30.

  17. I keep hearing about how excited they are to spend more time with their family now….I wonder if their now unemployed employees who only had a few days notice and depended on those paychecks to feed their families are also just as excited to be spending more time with their families??

  18. How can you sell yourself as an environmentally friendly (buy local produce) business and at the same time not be able to stay in business unless clientele drive 30 miles and increase their carbon footprints? Not environmentally friendly.

  19. I predicted this demise when Biteclub first wrote about the opening. Over the past 40 years many have come and all have failed.
    P30 was only a whim. The food was uneven, as was the service. The prices were high for the quantity of food, and that is a sure fire method for not attracting repeat business.
    When will people learn that this is a no win location?

  20. So bummed! Was a great place, and a wonderful menu. I wish I would have eaten there more. Location? Well, it used to be a THRIVING market back in the day when Virgie owned it. Maybe it should be a market once again?

    1. I have to agree. Heather, it’s not just being fickle or having to get the kids home. Bodega Highway is a perfectly reasonable road during daylight hours. At night, it reveals another aspect of its character – it’s a twisty, turny road with essentially no lighting once you leave Sebastopol. That’s not impossible either, providing you are cold sober. It’s fun to drive if you are really sharp, but wine with dinner will dull your senses (even though most people are in denial about this) enough to make it dangerous.

      OK, you shouldn’t be driving around with your ability impaired anyway. But at least in town you can see some distance ahead. And even if you forgo the alcohol, the guy in the next car might not have. I’ve got better things to do than dodge DUIs at night on a road like that.

      Maybe I’m just too risk averse, but I feel better about staying in town, or at least going someplace on 101. I’m sure I’ve missed some good meals because of this, but so it goes. Many of my friends feel the same way.

      1. Well said, Calast. I guess that was something I instinctively felt as well. I’ve had some harrowing drives out that way (ie: when we went out to Casino the other night) especially when the fog settles in.

  21. I totally understand the pressure and commitment, My husband worked 7 days a week at our restaurant until we finally decided to close. I must admit it’s nice having him home more with me and the kids.

    1. What I mean (and I sometimes count myself as one of them) is that it is like pulling teeth to get most folks from Santa Rosa to get in their car and drive 15-40 minutes away for dinner. Santa Rosans typically eat in Santa Rosa. I’ve heard many, many people tell me they’ve never eaten at p/30 because they didn’t want to drive “all the way out there.” I understand the sentiment — as a parent, If I’m just having a casual dinner with my family, I’d rather go somewhere around the corner and get the kids back home. I’d need to mentally carve out a lot more time to go to like Occidental, Petaluma, or even Sonoma.

      1. Count me as one Santa Rosan who feels that the best places to eat are almost always out of town. Santa Rosa does not have two restaurants that would be in the top 5 in Healdsburg and Sonoma.

      2. I am another Santa Rosa resident who doesn’t mind driving for a good meal. I have definitely driven out to the Willowood Market Cafe when I simply had to have polenta. From where I live Zazu, although technically Santa Rosa, is still over 15 minutes away and I will certainly make that drive. There are plenty of wonderful places in downtown Santa Rosa that I give my business to on a regular basis, but I would be missing out if I didn’t eat at all the other amazing places in the county.

        Also, seriously? That’s a “harrowing drive?” There are far worse roads in the county than Bodega Highway.

      3. Well then it’s nice to know that we are most definitely NOT notoriously fickle Santa Rosan’s. Every opportunity we get we travel out west…favorite haunts being Barley & Hops in Occidental (LOVE this place!) and restaurants/deli’s in Bodega and Bodega Bay.

    1. Mike, if you check their Facebook page you will see that they plan on working with (as of now, unknown) new owners to get gift certificates honored.

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