By Mark Wineka
Las Palmas, a well-known downtown Salisbury restaurant over the past two decades, will close Jan. 19.
John Gray, who oversaw the restaurant’s operations from the beginning and is one of its owners, said Wednesday declining sales, increased overhead and last summer’s construction on East Fisher Street combined to spell the end.
In business for 21 years, Las Palmas specializes in Southwestern chicken, steak and seafood and regularly features live music.
“It’s been a great experience, and I appreciate all the support customers have given me over the years,” Gray said.
Leading up to the closing, Las Palmas will be offering many menu and beverage specials.
The restaurant also will have a final “Open Mic” night next Tuesday and a “Reunion and Farewell Party” on Jan. 19, the closing night, when past and present employees and friends are encouraged to celebrate Las Palmas’ long run.
“I hope we have a good turnout with that,” Gray said. “There are a lot of people I want to see.”
Gray also is inviting anyone who has ever performed or attended the Open Mic nights to be part of the last one ever. He said he took a lot of pride through the years in supporting live local music, with the help of hosts such as Randy Brownlow, Marc Hoffman, K-Jeff Hansen, Tripp Edwards and others.
Edwards is organizing what Gray is calling the “Las Palmas All Star Band” to perform on the final night.
Next week, Tuesday through Saturday, old menu items will return, and prices on the whole menu will be reduced to show Las Palmas’ appreciation, Gray said.
Gray acknowledged that business already was on the decline when the recent construction on East Fisher Street delivered a “knockout punch” and his rent was increased. Gray had been in and out of Small Claims Court for the past year with Wallace Properties over unpaid rent and other issues.
A final decision in Small Claims Court Monday essentially gave Gray 10 days to vacate. Gray said all the restaurant’s assets and equipment will go to the landlord as payment.
Gray said he personally will be looking for work. He also is an agent for Century 21 Towne and Country.
Las Palmas, located at 122 E. Fisher St., took over the former location of the Friendly Cue pool hall in early 1987. It was patterned after La Paz in Charlotte, where Gray had worked previously.
Gray, 51, said Las Palmas was “kind of an experiment” when it started because it was a Charlotte-styled restaurant going into a small market that had just recently passed liquor by the drink.
The timing was good, Gray said, because it was offering something beyond the dominant barbecue houses and fish camps.
“It had good food, prepared fresh, good service, and people liked it,” Gray said.
The connection to music was present from the beginning. Gray recalled that the opening private party featured a Chicago blues artist. The owners’ connections to Blues Harbor often directed blues artists to Salisbury after their performances in Atlanta in the early days.
Open Mic nights started in 1989, helping many local artists to have exposure.
Gray started out with only a 2.25 percent ownership interest and worked his way up to almost 40 percent, he said. Another key owner, Gray said, is Kevin Diffley of Knoxville, Tenn.
Gray has had several employees who worked a long time at Las Palmas, including Jennifer Luttrell (13 years) and Cecelia Stack (10 years).
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or email@example.com.
By Mark Wineka