PALM DESERT, Calif. - Two of the longest-running restaurants in the city of Palm Desert are no longer open for business. Tony Roma's, off Highway 111, is the latest restaurant to close its doors, leaving a note on the door to thank its patrons in a final goodbye.
The closing came just seven days after Elephant Bar, another long-standing establishment in Palm Desert, put a padlock on its gate. Both companies, corporate-wide, had been struggling. Elephant Bar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 17th and closed 16 more restaurants in the proceedings. Meanwhile, Tony Roma's lost 70% of sales corporate-wide between 2001 and 2011.
The closing of over 40 years of combined business longevity in a week looks bad for the city, but Palm Desert's Economic Development Manager RuthAnn Moore said she's seen an explosion of retail and restaurant businesses joining the city since the recession, compared to the ones that have left. "During the recession, we lost quite a few businesses that closed nationally, not just here in Palm Desert," said Moore. "And as of last year, every single big-box that had been vacant in the city of Palm Desert was back in play."
The list includes Dicks Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack, and PGA Superstore. So while big names like Elephant Bar and Tony Roma's have closed, that's not stopping other big names from joining the community ranks, including the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, the only one of its kind on the west coast. "They felt that this was a valuable investment and it was something they wanted to be a part of," said Wolfgang Puck General Manager Paul Patino. "And Palm Desert's the place to be, especially in southern California. I think we all say, when we want to get away from the chaos and come to relax this is where we come. It's our island," Patino said.
Palm Desert does $1.5 billion of taxable retail and restaurant sales each year. It will also add a Whole Foods market in September. And the city will continue to attract high-end contemporary dining establishments for a healthy serving of business in the future.