And then there were none. On Tuesday night, Nov. 2, hours before Kerry and Edwards conceded defeat in the 2004 presidential election, pioneering and prolific restaurateur Jody Faison called it quits at Café 123, ending a 23-year career in the business. "As of now," he says, "I am no longer in the restaurant industry."
Though in some ways the shuttering of the last of his high-profile restaurants and clubs puts a defining end to the era, the high times in which Faison built his empire came to their natural conclusion long ago. Faison first shook up a conservative, staid and predictable dining scene with Faison's, which opened in a shabby old house on Belcourt Avenue in June 1981. The restaurant became a magnet for young bohemian creative types, while at the same time it spurred the redevelopment and reinvention of Hillsboro Village.
Over the years, Faison added new concepts12th & Porter, which became his flagship; its Gulch-mate The Pub of Love; The Iguana in Hillsboro Village; Jody's in Cummins Station; and finally, the more upscale Café 123. Each had a unique personality that shared Faison's vision. Each created laid-back, slightly funky, groovy scenes where everyone was welcome and anything was possible.
Various personal and professional problemsnot the least of which was too many properties too soonset in motion a gradual diminishment of his holdings. First to go was Faison's (which became the Trace), then Iguana (now vacant), then Jody's (now Kadzu). The most shocking closing, in early October, to its legions of fans was probably 12th & Porter, as beloved for its music room as for its Pasta Ya Ya in the dining room. Non-payment of taxes led to the relinquishment of the liquor license, never a good thing for a bar. And this week came the closing of the last, Café 123.
"I thought I could close 12th & Porter and make Café 123 work," Faison said, "but I was having to make one restaurant pay for the bills of two, and it just didn't work. We ran out of capital." Faison is not completely sure what he will do next, but for the first time since he graduated college, he says he is thinking of a real job.
Meanwhile, a sign on the window of Café 123 reads: "Available. Inside, the tables are set for dinner, awaiting the next big thing. Thanks, Jody."