Sub­lime shuts sud­denly; two other iconic names also off S. Florida’s menu

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Mayo Staff writer

Sub­lime restau­rant in Fort Laud­erdale, a fix­ture and fore­run­ner of South Florida’s ve­gan and veg­e­tar­ian scene, shut­tered sud­denly this week af­ter 15 years, leav­ing le­gions of fans up­set and some cus­tomers won­der­ing about whether they will get re­funds on un­used gift cards.

“I have mixed feel­ings, but it was just the right time for me to close,” Sub­lime owner and founder Nanci Alexan­der, 71, says in a tele­phone in­ter­view Thurs­day. “Run­ning a restau­rant, it’s drain­ing.”

And Satur­day, Tar­pon Bend Food and Tackle restau­rant in the Him­marshee dis­trict of Fort Laud­erdale will close af­ter 19

“It was just the right time for me to close. Run­ning a restau­rant, it’s drain­ing.” Nanci Alexan­der, Sub­lime

years, Tim Petrillo of own­er­ship group the Restau­rant Peo­ple con­firmed on Thurs­day.

Petrillo says Tar­pon Bend staffers have been of­fered jobs at Town­ship, a new beer gar­den/restau­rant sched­uled to open in June on An­drews Av­enue nearby, at the for­mer site of the Tilted Kilt.

Petrillo said the Tar­pon Bend build­ing has been sold to a real-es­tate in­vest­ment group and plans for the site are un­clear. A Tar­pon Bend lo­ca­tion in Coral Gables will re­main open.

Alexan­der, of Sub­lime, is noncommital about re­funds on gift cards.

“There are un­used cards ev­ery year. How can I re­fund them?” Alexan­der says. Asked if she could is­sue checks to gift-card hold­ers upon re­quest, Alexan­der says, “I don’t know yet.”

The sur­prise clos­ing was in con­trast with the planned fi­nale of an­other highly re­garded Florida restau­rant, 32 East in Del­ray Beach, which served its fi­nal meals this week af­ter 22 years. Sub­lime and 32 East each earned four-star re­views from the Sun Sen­tinel and South­ in the past, and re­peated ac­co­lades in the an­nual Best of South Florida com­pe­ti­tion.

Sub­lime, a strik­ing, 11,000-square-foot stand­alone build­ing on North Fed­eral High­way, at­tracted vis­it­ing celebri­ties such as Paul McCart­ney, Ali­cia Sil­ver­stone and Pamela An­der­son and fea­tured a wa­ter­fall wall along with pop­u­lar dishes such as cau­li­flower fritto misto, mush­room ravi­oli and co­conut cake. When Alec Bald­win was in town film­ing “Rock of Ages,” he dined at Sub­lime and tweeted that it was “the Le Bernardin of ve­gan cui­sine.”

But the fine-din­ing restau­rant had lost its lus­ter in re­cent years, as ve­gan cui­sine ex­panded with newer, trendier and bolder op­tions, in­clud­ing fast-ca­sual Green Bar in Fort Laud­erdale and strik­ing new­com­ers in Miami-Dade County such as Plant Miami (formerly Plant Food + Wine) near Wyn­wood, and Planta, a new ven­ture in South Beach from night­club mogul David Grut­man.

Alexan­der, an an­i­mal­rights ac­tivist who held fundrais­ers and awards ban­quets for PETA and other groups, says busi­ness re­mained steady, but she tired of on­go­ing con­struc­tion and traf­fic in the area, near the big bend where U.S. 1 and East Sun­rise Boule­vard merge. She said Sub­lime was a project that con­sumed nearly two decades of her life, in­clud­ing the land ac­qui­si­tion and con­struc­tion. She bought the site for $1.66 mil­lion in 2001 and opened Sub­lime in 2003. The site is now val­ued at $3 mil­lion by the Broward County Prop­erty Ap­praiser and has an an­nual prop­erty tax bill sur­pass­ing $60,000.

Alexan­der says she in­tends to sell the site, but only to an­other ve­gan or an­i­mal-friendly op­er­a­tor. “It can be an­other ve­gan restau­rant, or a night­club or some kind of artis­tic space, but it’s not go­ing to be a leather fur­ni­ture show­room,” she says. “I’m ask­ing some of my ve­gan friends and con­tacts around the coun­try if any­body is in­ter­ested. The area keeps grow­ing and there are more ve­g­ans and veg­e­tar­i­ans than ever.”

Alexan­der an­nounced the clos­ing on Face­book on May 15, the day af­ter fi­nal ser­vice on Mother’s Day. She thanked loyal cus­tomers and asked them to “em­bark on [a path] in pur­suit of com­pas­sion for all,” in­clud­ing an­i­mals. She said she plans to con­tinue the An­i­mal Rights Foun­da­tion of Florida, a non­profit she ran in con­junc­tion with the restau­rant.

“This is go­ing to leave a huge void in the ve­gan com­mu­nity in South Florida,” cus­tomer Judy Camp­bell Karpis wrote on Sub­lime’s Face­book page.

Neil Ka­plan wrote, “Sorry to see the end of a South Florida in­sti­tu­tion, the restau­rant that started it all lo­cally.”

At least a half-dozen cus­tomers posted in­quiries about un­used gift cards, not­ing the restau­rant’s phone is not ac­cept­ing mes­sages. Kent Ather­ton wrote on the Sub­lime Face­book page that he had $300 in un­used gift cards and hadn’t got­ten a re­sponse about a re­fund. “Rather dis­heart­en­ing af­ter the years we went there and then stiff­ing us,” Ather­ton wrote. “It kinda hurts … We can only hope Nanci is read­ing our com­ments and will de­cide to do the right thing.”

A Face­book com­menter named Robert Bill wrote, “Maybe you should have lis­tened to your guests ask­ing for a new menu. Abruptly shut­ting down shows your lack of re­spect for your em­ploy­ees.”

At 32 East, em­ploy­ees had am­ple ad­vance no­tice af­ter owner Butch John­son an­nounced last year that the restau­rant would close af­ter Mother’s Day 2018 to make way for a new out­post of Louie Bossi Ris­torante. The mood in the restau­rant was more cel­e­bra­tory than somber on Sun­day night, and the server who took care of my ta­ble gushed about how she has been al­lowed to hold two jobs the past few months, start­ing at Houston’s in Boca Ra­ton ear­lier this year.

32 East opened in 1996 and spurred the re­de­vel­op­ment of the At­lantic Av­enue cor­ri­dor into one of South Florida’s top en­ter­tain­ment and din­ing des­ti­na­tions

John­son, who turned 70 this month, was on hand with his wife and busi­ness part­ners for a fi­nal meal on Sun­day, and to say farewell to loyal cus­tomers. “It’s been a bit­ter­sweet few weeks, but I feel good about what we have done,” John­son said. John­son said he might look to open a smaller restau­rant in an un­de­vel­oped area of Palm Beach County. Long­time gen­eral man­ager and wine maven John Bates has an­nounced he is launch­ing a new wine­tast­ing room and kitchen later this year on At­lantic Av­enue, in the for­mer home of Caffe Martier.

Ex­ec­u­tive chef John Thomas is ex­plor­ing his op­tions, and he will cook two popup din­ners in up­com­ing weeks at Jewell Bistro in Lake Worth. He also changed his Instagram han­dle from “chefJT_32east” to “chefJT_ronin.” As Thomas ex­plained in his Instagram bio, ronin is “a wan­der­ing samu­rai who has no lord or mas­ter.”


The un­ex­pected clos­ing of Sub­lime leaves a large gap in lo­cal ve­gan/veg­e­tar­ian din­ing op­tions. The venue had at­tracted celebri­ties dur­ing its 15-year his­tory.


32 East on At­lantic Av­enue in Del­ray Beach an­nounced last year that it would close. Af­ter 22 years, it had be­come a South Florida in­sti­tu­tion highly re­garded for its cui­sine and cus­tomer ser­vice. It served its last meal Sun­day.


Tar­pon Bend on South­west Sec­ond Street in Fort Laud­erdale’s Him­marshee dis­trict will close Satur­day af­ter 19 years.

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