Landmark restaurant Reata leaving Sundance Square, looking for new home

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The owner of Reata, the iconic restaurant that has been a fixture in downtown Fort Worth since 1996, announced plans on Wednesday to begin searching for a new home after attempts to renew its lease in Sundance Square have been unsuccessful so far.

“We emailed and asked for a renewal and didn’t get it,” said Mike Micallef, president of Reata Restaurants. “Then we asked for a face-to-face meeting and didn’t get it.”

Reata’s lease on the restaurant at 310 Houston St., the former site of Caravan of Dreams, ends June 30, 2024 and Micallef said that commitment will be honored even as efforts are underway to find a new home.

Micallef told members of the media that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility that a new lease agreement could be reached with Sundance Square owners Ed and Sasha Bass to keep Reata in its current location.

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“Right now, we are looking to consider all options on the table,” Micallef said.

A new website, www.wearereata.com, and email address, locations@reata.net, have been establish to solicit ideas from the public about the restaurant’s potential new home.

Besides the adverse impact of pandemic shutdowns and restrictions, business at Reata has been further affected by higher valet parking rates in Sundance Square.

“No one wants to come spend our prices for dinner and $21 on top of that to valet park,” Micallef said.

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Although there are other downtown and Sundance Square parking options, including free parking in city-funded garages at night and on weekends, Micallef says Reata’s customers prefer the valet option and he has received many complaints.

A news release announcing Wednesday’s news conference at Reata implored those planning to attend to: “Please allow plenty of time to find parking, as Reata is no longer able to operate or validate valet or parking lot tickets.”

A spokesman for Sundance Square did not respond to a request for comment.

However, Sundance Square spokesman Bryan Eppstein told NBC 5 – the first to report on Reata’s plans – in a statement that “all restaurants in Sundance Square have the option to pay for part (or all) of their customer’s valet parking … and Reata does not participate in this program.”

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Micallef said that when valet rates were  $3 or $4 a vehicle, “we were able to pick that up and make it free for the customer.” But the higher price makes that financially unfeasible, he said.

Should Reata leave Sundance Square, the restaurant will follow the exodus of many retail stores and restaurants that have left the 35-square-block entertainment district. Earlier this year, Sundance Square’s website listed 40 businesses that were open and 47 that had closed. The map with those listings has since been removed from the Sundance Square website.

Ed and Sasha Bass recently announced a competition called the Next Big Idea. Its aim is to identify “passionate entrepreneurs” who could operate their budding businesses in space previously leased by national brand retailers such as The Loft, Jos. A. Bank, White House/Black Market and restaurants such as 5 Guys Hamburgers, Taco Diner and Pizzeria Uno.

“We haven’t given up on the idea of (Reata) staying in Sundance Square,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. “We will do whatever it takes to help them stay downtown.”

Bob Jameson, president and CEO of Visit Fort Worth, said, “Reata has been an important part of Fort Worth’s history and will continue to be because the restaurant reflects Fort Worth’s heritage. We’re used to them being downtown, and it’s hard to think of them not being there.”

Fort Worth’s Reata is the second restaurant opened by the Micallef family.

The original restaurant opened 27 years ago, 463 miles west in Alpine, Texas.

“Reata was borne out of one rancher’s desire to get a good meal,” Micallef said in a statement. A year later, friends convinced the rancher, Mike Micallef’s father Al, to open a second restaurant in Fort Worth.

“Everyone told him no one could operate a successful restaurant in downtown Fort Worth … 35 stories high … in an office tower with a parking garage operated by a bank! Good thing this rancher wasn’t much for listening to naysayers,” Micallef said.

The restaurant was an immediate success.

“Yes, Dad, you were right,” Micallef said. “There I said it.”

Six weeks after a deadly tornado on March 28, 2000, devastated the former Bank One Tower where Reata was located, the restaurant re-opened and was the only business operating in the skyscraper.

The damaged building finally closed in February 2001 and Reata moved the following year to the former Caravan of Dreams space in Sundance Square, a 20,000-square-foot, four-story building that includes a rooftop bar, geodesic dome and patio dining.

Also in 2002, Reata opened a catering business and started its first pop-up restaurant at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. The partnership has continued with the Stock Show & Rodeo and has expanded to three locations, Micallef said.

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