TALENT — Pointing to slack business and high rent, the owner of Avalon Bar & Grill in Talent gave 15 employees their final paychecks last week, canceled musical acts and closed its doors for good.
"The owner decided he wasn't able to meet payroll, so he closed it down," said Bridgette Fleming, business agent for owner James Elliott. "All employees were paid in full."
The restaurant, located on West Valley View Road across from the new Brammo facility, went through a death-rebirth a year ago, with chef Stefano Cipollone becoming the new manager.
But rent was too high and expected investments were not forthcoming, said Cipollone, noting costs were in line and he'd been putting much work into improvements.
"We were cut short and couldn't get the rent lowered to a reasonable rate," said Cipollone, who said he has found a new job. "We went as far as we could. We got good reviews on Yelp and Facebook. People very much enjoyed the place and loved what we were doing."
Longtime area musician Ed Dunsavage, whose show last week was scrubbed because of the closure, said business seemed to be doing well, with good food and solid support from the community.
"It's unfortunate," said Dunsavage. "I've seen this too many times, like the situation with Alex's (recently shuttered in Ashland). It's challenging to run it on a lean margin."
Pointing to the closure this spring of Inti, a Latin-flavored restaurant in Talent, Dunsavage said, "It seemed to be doing really well, too. But in the restaurant business, you have to give it time. I've been in the music scene here for 24 years and have seen many cycles and upswings, then all of a sudden it goes down and a couple places are shut."
"Talent is a wonderful place, with great location," Cipollone said. "It's definitely there to happen and has room to grow, but things have to work with the landlord. Owners have to have a good relationship with them, so it's not just about rent."
Dunsavage noted a trend of more chefs and musicians finding work at area wineries, though it's more seasonal there — and wineries also run on a tight margin.
"There's definitely an audience there, and it creates new space for musicians to perform," he said.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.