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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.