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Medium Rare steakhouse closes despite $100K+ city investment

The letters dripping blood should be coming down soon. Just weeks after the city completed its last installment of the $113,000 in redevelopment funds for Main Street's new "casual steak house" Medium Rare, a banner went up stating "FOR SALE / FULLY EQUIPPED RESTAURANT / RECENTLY REMODELED, HIGH CEILINGS."

Medium Rare remains on the city's list of "completed redevelopment projects." But despite the city's assistance in renovation, the manager said the business was "underfinanced," and that it became clear to the restaurateurs that it "wasn't going to improve."

At a City Council meeting on Monday night, City Manager Julio Fuentes said the city would still benefit from the expenditure. "The investment was in the materials and in the things that went into building more so than to the restaurant," he said. "So the work that was completed still remains with the building and can still be used by another perspective tenant."

Fuentes also said that other businesses were currently interested in purchasing the space, including another steakhouse. "What we try to do is avoid a lot of duplication in terms of restaurants," he said. "There's just so many things and so many customers, that if you get too many restaurants that duplicate uses, essentially it hurts the restaurants that are already here."

Support was provided to Medium Rare, and to the previous restaurant in the location, Bistro 39, via the Alhambra Redevelopment Agency which was recently disbanded along with more than 400 others in the state because the governor believed those funds should be reallocated to public services. But city officials created a successor agency which preserved much of redevelopent's functions, which in the past were responsible for bringing in a long list of national retailers including Starbucks, LA Fitness, Toys R’ Us, Costco, Taco Bell, Kohl’s, Volkswagen. Support has ranged from $136,000 to Starbucks in the 1990s, to $1.2 million to create the Renaissance Plaza at Garfield and Main, to free rent to Subway in exchange for renovations. Smaller restaurants and bars such as Havana House or 38 Degrees were among other recipients, as was the Lizard Theater and housing developments.

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8 thoughts on “Medium Rare steakhouse closes despite $100K+ city investment”

  1. Great, thanks for wasting our money, redevelopment agency. I feel a lot better about all of those ridiculous parking tickets and bureaucratic permits I had to pay for. There was a reason the governor decided to disband this wasteful committee. Can we vote to have it disbanded again? Actually no, stay there, and keep pouring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of our money into new businesses that close after about a month. Good going.

  2. The city keeps sinking money into these failed businesses.  Medium Rare took down $113,000 of the community's money.  It's just the latest in a long string.  No ill will toward these businesses and all the best to them, but it's not right to use public money to treat the symptoms while neglecting the cause.  Instead of devoting so much of our funding into failed businesses, we need to ask ourselves why people aren't patronizing them.  One reason is the economy.  Helping our community on an upwardly mobile track would help.  If the funding were instead used for community based programs (adult education, paid training internships, ESL, mental health), that would be money well spent and worth every penny.  And unlike a failed restaurant, that's something that can't be taken away from the person receiving the benefit.

  3. Every time I drove buy that place I couldn’t believe the city commission responsible for approving signage would approve that sign. I thought it was a joke or a house of horrors.

  4. O m g Medium Rare sucked so bad I’m glad it’s gone. The meat was so tough, undercooked 2x then burnt, cold chicken wings, bad service, Costco salad, stale bread, ehhh! Sorry had to vent cause we dropped almost $100 at this place lol.

  5. Elizabeth Salinas

    This just seems totally wrong. The City gave this restaurant over $100k for capital improvements and the restaurant never even got off the ground and is now for sale? This does not appear to be a proper use of City money, especially at a time when the City claims we don’t have money for a swim team, longer recreational swim hours, or to repave our residential streets. How about the City invest money in projects that will service the residents and not just the business interests? Who else is outraged by this?

  6. Was Tony Romas created with redevelopment money? Anyone know?

  7. This is unfortunate, but I’m confused with the city manager’s comments.

    On one hand, he says the city will still benefit from the investment it has made because the “work that completed still remains with the building and can still be used by another perspective tenant.”

    But on the other, he says “we try to do is avoid a lot of duplication in terms of restaurants” because “There’s just so many things and so many customers, that if you get too many restaurants that duplicate uses, essentially it hurts the restaurants that are already here.”

    So it sounds like he’s not worried because another restaurant can easily occupy the space left by Medium Rare (and he even mentions that another steakhouse may be interested in purchasing the space)–and implying the city’s investment is not in jeopardy. Yet on the other, he seems to worry about “duplication in terms of restaurants”, i.e., too many restaurants that can hurt the already existing restaurants–and implying the city’s investment may be in jeopardy.

    Does that make sense to anyone?

    1. I think what the City Manager was referring to in terms of “duplication” is the type of food served, meaning the City would prefer that the restaurants in the downtown area are as varied as possible.