Downtown Dallas power-lunch spot the Palm Restaurant is closing in the West End. Owners Wally Ganzi and Bruce Bozzi Jr. announced in a letter that the 33-year-old lobster and steak house will shutter on June 30.
The "clubby hangout," as critic Waltrina Stovall termed it in 1991, was hot for many years in Dallas. The neighborhood surrounding it, known as the West End, has cooled, however. The restaurant was also markedly close in proximity to the July 7, 2016 ambush in downtown Dallas. Officer Jesus Retana, shot in the arm in the attack, took shelter inside the Palm until he was taken to the hospital.
But that was one night. The Palm is a symbol of decades of charity events, anniversary celebrations and dinners for regulars.
Its story started in the mid-'80s, when it quickly became known as a glammy spot for a business lunch. You knew you'd made it if your portrait was on the wall of the Palm, explained Al Biernat — then the general manager of the Dallas Palm, now the owner of a Dallas steakhouse in his name — who talked to The Dallas Morning News for a story in 1988. "Even big customers with big names will have at least a six-month wait to get on the Dallas Palm wall," the story explains.
Notably, the restaurant will not be removing the caricatures from the walls, says chief marketing officer Karen LuKanic.
"Customers are welcome to come in and preserve their caricature by photographing it before June 30," she says.
Around the Palm's 10th anniversary, in 1994, our own Alan Peppard wrote this: "The Palm restaurant has rewritten Newton's laws of gravity: What goes up, just keeps right on going up. The local pecking order of the rich, powerful and famous may fluctuate daily, but the Palm — a favorite restaurant and watering hole — endures and prospers."
Part of the glitz of the Palm is the original restaurant's history, which dates to the '20s in New York City. Nearly 100 years later, it's still run by the same two families that opened it. It has expanded to Denver, Miami, Chicago, Beverly Hills and many other cities.
The owners write that the decision to close the Dallas restaurant was "very difficult for us" in a letter to customers. "Recent events, however, have left us concerned for the safety and welfare of our valued customers and staff," the letter says. They don't point to the July 7 ambush, specifically, as the reason they're moving, LuKanic says, but "the events in the West End last summer certainly opened our eyes."
In a statement from the West End Association, President Stephen Luik says the neighborhood has "seen over $150 million in investment/redevelopment" over the past two years. "As with any evolving neighborhood in the midst of a 'rebirth', there is work to be done, but through the partnership and leadership of entities like the West End Association, City of Dallas, Dallas Police Department, DART, Downtown Dallas Inc. and the Downtown Dallas Neighborhood Association, we know the best is yet to come. Results around quality of life and safety concerns have seen proven improvement over the past year with the DPD now patrolling the District 24-7, the Downtown Safety Patrol, and the WEA is in the process of selecting a private security firm to add additional security to the area.
"We know nothing can replace the memories made at The Palm, but we do know there are many more to come."
For anyone who is an 837 Club member, the owners say the points they accrued can be used at the Dallas restaurant until June 30 or at any other Palm restaurants after that.
"We are sorry to say goodbye and remain hopeful that we can find a new home here in the great city of Dallas," the letter says. They haven't signed a new lease yet, LuKanic confirms.
The Palm Restaurant is at 701 Ross Ave., Dallas.
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Update at 10:25 June 2, 2017: This story was updated with information on how the restaurant's famous caricatures on the walls can be memorialized.
Update at 11:45 a.m. June 7, 2017: This story was updated with a statement from the president of the West End Association.