Devotay, a longtime staple of Iowa City’s dining scene, will close at the end of the year.
Owners Mark and Jade Paterno, who bought the restaurant almost one year ago from founders Kurt and Kim Friese, announced Tuesday they will reopen the restaurant under a new name and concept in January.
The restaurant, at 117 N. Linn St., first opened Dec. 5, 1996, serving tapas and other Spanish-inspired cuisine. Kurt Friese, a Johnson County supervisor who died unexpectedly in October, used Devotay to advocate for one of his passions, locally grown food. The Frieses sold the restaurant to the Paternos on Jan. 1, 2018.
“It was definitely a really difficult decision for us to make. We didn’t buy Devotay with the intention of changing it,” Jade Paterno said.
But she said business had dropped off and they felt a revamp was necessary to stay competitive. She said some customers, especially the transient college-aged population, found the concept of tapas confusing. Instead, the new restaurant will have a “traditional appetizer, entree, dessert” menu, she said, focused on “elevated and eclectic American food, borrowing from a lot of styles.” Paterno said the name for the new restaurant will be announced at a later date
“We’re hoping with a name change and a menu that’s a little more approachable, business will pick back up,” she said. “We are reacting to a dire lack of business in the only way that makes sense, which is change.”
She said Friese’s death made the decision more difficult. The Paternos were out of town when he died, and they had been planning to discuss their idea with him when they returned, she said.
“We delayed our announcement quite a bit, until we were able to have those conversations with Kim,” she said.
Kim Friese told The Gazette she understands and supports the decision.
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“Naturally, I’m sad, of course, but I’m also very supportive of the new ownership and what they want to do. I think they’re going to do wonderful things with that space, and they already have,” she said. “I understand their concept that Devotay just isn’t the same without Kurt and me and all the folks who were there for so many years ... that the energy is hard to recreate.”
She said even with Devotay closed, the impact of her husband’s work and of the restaurant will live on.
“There will always be wonderful memories. It was a great place for those who dined there and those who worked there,” she said. “I think that legacy will live on in certain things in the community.”
She encouraged Devotay’s fans to continue to dine in the space when it reopens.
“It’s important to continue to support Mark and Jade in their new endeavor. I certainly will be, to take them into the next generation,” she said. “I ask our community to support them, and to support all of our small businesses that are so important.”
Devotay will maintain regular dinner hours and Sunday brunch service through Dec. 31, and will serve a final New Year’s Eve prix fixe meal before closing Jan. 1.
Paterno said Devotay’s current staff have been invited to remain part of the new restaurant, though Chef Daniel Knowles has decided to leave the business.
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