Nam Vietnamese Brasserie, Red Berry Coffee Bar and the Ghostwood Brewing taproom close shop in the wake of a prolonged downturn

(Image via MacArthur Park’s FB page)

This Saturday, Aug. 8, will be MacArthur Park’s last day of service until 2021.

The owners of MacArthur Park, which has occupied a historic, 11,000-square-foot building on the edge of downtown Palo Alto for nearly 40 years, have decided to close the restaurant temporarily.

“The safety of our staff and patrons has always been an utmost concern. Combined with the challenging economics, we decided it best to pause our operations till [sic] next year,” spokesperson Michael Davis wrote in an email.

In making the decision, he said “safety and health concerns came first” and that the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases was also “troubling.” The restaurant is one of numerous local eateries that have been forced to close recently in the face of a prolonged economic downturn.

MacArthur Park opened in 1981 at 27 University Ave., next to the Palo Alto Caltrain station. The building was designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan in 1918 and originally served as a recreation facility for troops training at Camp Fremont in Menlo Park during World War I, according to the restaurant’s website. It became a community center and later faced possible demolition before the building was renovated and MacArthur Park took over the lease.

MacArthur Park’s original chef, Faz Poursohi, and owner Chuck Frank, who opened MacArthur Park with Spectrum Foods, acquired the restaurant in 2008, the website states, and set about revitalizing the longtime establishment.

A pre-pandemic view from MacArthur Park’s upstairs mezzanine, which has been closed since March under local public health restrictions. (Image via MacArthur Park’s FB page)

After offering takeout and delivery for several months, the restaurant reopened for outdoor dining in July, taking advantage of an outdoor patio. An announcement at the time noted the restaurant had put in place a “rigorous cleaning regimen” and had “a table spacing formation that will make our patrons feel safe and welcome.”

But without MacArthur Park’s large indoor dining room and mezzanine as a draw, coupled with the loss of special events, the economics proved difficult, Davis said.

“We also were a restaurant (whose) ambience was such a core part of our success,” he said. “It felt as though it was an uphill battle.”

The shuttering of MacArthur Park comes on the heels of the recent high-profile local closure of Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village. Tim Stannard, founding partner of Bacchus Management Group, which owned Mayfield (as well as The Village Pub in Woodside and Selby’s in Redwood City), pointed to the increasingly sizable economic hurdles of the current landscape: “Like many restaurants throughout the area and across the country, the impact of the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders have reduced revenues to an unsustainable level.”

Annie Le Ziblatt launched Nam Vietnamese Brasserie just weeks before shelter-in-place measures took effect. (Photo courtesy Nam Vietnamese Brasserie)

Sadly, these two local eateries are not alone. In Redwood City, Nam Vietnamese Brasserie has also closed temporarily — “until this pandemic is over,” owner Anne Le Ziblatt said. Ziblatt opened Nam just three weeks before shelter-in-place took effect in mid-March.

Red Berry Coffee Bar in downtown Los Altos will close on Aug. 23, according to an Instagram post. “We are sad to say that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to cease operations,” the post reads.

Black Pepper in Menlo Park, meanwhile, is “closed until further notice,” the Malaysian restaurant’s voicemail message states. Black Pepper opened on El Camino Real in 2017; the owners’ first restaurant in Milpitas remains open.

Ghostwood Brewery had a unique business setup that was spread between two locations: a warehouse brewing operation (pictured left) on Bayshore Road, which was about a mile from their taproom on Brewster Avenue in Redwood City (right). Ghostwood has recently announced the shuttering of the latter location in the face of a prolonged economic downturn. (Images via Ghostwood’s Facebook)

Ghostwood Beer Co. is closing its Redwood City taproom permanently at the end of August, writing in an Instagram post that “with the uncertainty surrounding the future we simply can’t afford to keep losing $15,000-$20,000 per month with no end in sight.” After the taproom closes, people will be able to pick up beer to go from Ghostwood’s brewery on Bayshore Road.

Alana’s Cafe in Redwood City, located in a restored 1874 Victorian house on Main Street, reopened for a month and then closed, stating via their website that “there were not enough customers that felt comfortable coming back yet.”

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Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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