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After nearly five years in business, The Artist's Cafe will permanently close its doors in downtown Newton. The restaurant's closure will impact 20 employees when the business officially ceases operation on Saturday.
"I never wanted to leave this town. I put five years into this business," said The Artist's Cafe owner Louis Demarhos, adding the decision is heart-breaking. "We made a lot of great friends here."
Since Monday, rumors of the restaurant's demise circulated Newton, particularly after The Artist's Cafe used its Facebook page to announce an end to live music at the popular downtown venue. Last Friday's performance by Splitfinger was the last for the restaurant due to a "generally bad economy."
On Wednesday, the restaurant's owners, Dimarhos and Tim Andrews, again used Facebook to confirm the community's suspicions.
"Dear loyal customers," the message begins, "because we were unable to come to terms on a new, more affordable lease, we have made the decision to close the restaurant."
The business will be open to the public a final time Friday. After a private party on Saturday, The Artist's Cafe will close.
"We want to sincerely thank everyone for being part of this restaurant for five years," The Artist's Cafe announces on its Facebook page. "It was a wonderful ride. We love you all."
Dimarhos declined to discuss details of lease negotiations with the building's owner Lynn Nguyen, who also owns the Artist's Lofts adjacent to the restaurant. The restaurant property at 100 North Main Avenue is valued at $235,000, according to Catawba County tax records. The apartments, located at 102 North Main Avenue, are valued at $196,400, according to tax records.
Nguyen did not return a phone call seeking details about the future of the building by press time Wednesday. She is also president of Nagano's restaurants in Hickory and Conover.
While Dimarhos would not discuss financial discussions related to The Artist's Cafe's lease, he commented on the value of his customers support.
"It is worth more than a million dollars in business," he said. "I have had customers come in and offer money to pay the rent."
Some of those customers offered comments on The Artist's Cafe's Facebook page after the restaurant's closing was confirmed.
"What a loss to our community," said Ann Aichinger, a customer.
Linda Smith said the news "breaks our hearts," and Tim Koch commented that he hates to see the "only 'nice' restaurant in Newton close down."
"Hate to see this happen," William Smith commented online. "The cafe is the best thing that has happened to Newton in many years."
Meanwhile, Dimarhos said he is concerned about the restaurant's 20 workers who will now be out of work.
"I am proud of the people who worked here, every person, from the dishwashers to the wait staff," he said. "All of my help is upset, and we are trying to find them jobs elsewhere. They are all proud to work here. Any restaurant that can hire them, they can be their best employees."
The restaurant's looming closure is the second time the doors were locked for a "final time." In May 2006, the restaurant's developer and original owner closed the first incarnation of The Artist's Cafe. By early 2007, Dimarhos and Andrews opened the business again under the same name.