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Sat, March 23

Attrition bites local bistros

PRESCOTT – Running a restaurant can be a brutal business, with its long hours, fickle customers and seasonal revenue swings.

It can also be a mercilessly competitive business – especially so on such a crowded playing field as Prescott's, which has more than its fair share of top-shelf eateries.

In his 14 years as a downtown restaurateur, Kendall Jaspers says he has seen at least 25 restaurants come and go.

"It's just the nature of the business," he said, adding that statistics show that 80 percent of independent restaurants fail within the first five years.

Jaspers, owner of Kendall's Famous Burgers & Ice Cream, serves as vice president of the Prescott Downtown Partnership and as treasurer of the on-again-off-again Downtown Prescott Hospitality Association.

While Jaspers and others insist that business is up, some local restaurants have begun tightening their belts by scaling back their menus or hours.

Last year, the Pine Cone Inn stopped serving lunch and started closing on Mondays.

"Lunches weren't busy enough to justify being open," explained co-owner Linda Branch, adding that the change has "worked out excellent for us."

A couple of months ago, Coyote Joe's, on South Montezuma Street, renovated its dining room into a pool hall and cut its menu down to pizzas, appetizers and sandwiches.

Owner Chad Cornell was unavailable for comment about the change.

About a month ago, the Dry Gulch Steakhouse, which has been around for 30 years, stopped serving lunch.

"We just weren't making that much that necessitated us keeping it open," explained office manager Marsha Christian.

While the lunches paid for themselves, they just barely did so, she said, so the restaurant decided to cut them loose, as well as "a small amount" of the staff.

"Everything else stays the same," she said.

Tough times for Porter House, Cadillac

More recently, the venerable Porter House Restaurant gutted its menu of entrees, serving its last full-service meal on Sunday.

"It is a dramatic change," admitted manager Jamy Interdonato, who also trimmed his staff of 30 down to five.

Instead of serving T-bone steaks, lobster tails and prime rib, the restaurant now limits its offerings to a small top-sirloin steak, fried fish, burgers, chicken fingers, wings and other appetizers.

Basically, Interdonato explained, it is "Happy Hour, with an extended menu."

Bill Kahl, who bought the restaurant as the Prescott Mining Co. about five years ago, ordered Interdonato to make the changes. He agrees that the current menu hardly resembles the old one.

"It's very, very light because things are very, very bad," he explained. "It's been absolutely terrible."

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant, which formerly had about 50 tables, now serves only 12.

Its hours remain the same, however, and it is trying to build up its banquet and party business, Kahl explained.

While he is still considering his options, Kahl said he expects the future to be even worse than the present.


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