After four months in operation, Izakaya restaurant closes until July

The Japanese-French fusion restaurant Izakaya served its final meals and closed its doors this past Saturday after less than four months of operation. Owners Shon and Dana Lin now plan to rebrand and reopen the historic Midtown mansion in July as a Red Fish Sushi Asian Bistro.

The announcement of the sudden closing of the high-end restaurant was surprising to many in the community.

“We were shocked when we first heard of the closing, but when we heard it was reopening as Red Fish it made us all feel a little better,” said Gordon Alexander, founder of the Midtown Action Coalition, which fought to save the mansion from being torn down before the Lins underwent $3.5 million in renovations and converted the Nineteenth Century Club building into Izakaya.

“The fact they are going to reopen the restaurant, just in a different format, relieved a lot of the anguish we felt over them closing.”

The Lins currently own two other Red Fish Sushi Asian Bistros, one in Lakeland that opened in 2009 and one in Olive Branch that opened in 2015.

“I guess they are going to follow the same format and menu as they have at Red Fish, and that’s worked for them,” said Alexander, who believes the owners might have had a cash flow problem after they reportedly went more than $1 million over budget on the mansion’s restorations.

The ill-fated Izakaya also changed head chefs only a couple of months after opening in January, which not usually a good sign for a young restaurant.

According to the original restoration contractor Archer Custom Builders, no further construction work will be necessary before the restaurant reopens.

The three-story, 16,000-square-foot mansion had formerly been the site of the Nineteenth Century Club, a women’s activist group and social club, from the mid-1920s until the early 2000s when it had fallen into disrepair and become too much for the group to keep up.

“Even if they didn’t make a go of this new restaurant, which I think they will, there’s probably going to be a lot of people after that building because it is ready to go, especially for a restaurant,” said Alexander. “It’s restored, in great shape, and it’s a beautiful building.”

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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