After nearly six years in business and despite a faithful following and promising future, 38 Central is closing its doors this week as its owner considers relocating to a resort near Las Vegas.
Owner and head chef David Graham said a whirlwind of events has led to the closure of the downtown restaurant with the motto of "The Fine Art of Casual Dining."
Lunchtime business had been down 22 percent over the past six months, which Graham blamed on confusion over newly labeled parking spaces and a brick wall he said was confusing customers.
He said some parking spaces in a parking lot near the restaurant had been labeled as reserved by the city of Medford and customers didn't realize they could park in the spaces in the evenings and on weekends. A new wall near the Sixth Street parking garage had also complicated entry to the restaurant for elderly and disabled guests.
"It was a big impact on our lunchtime service," he said.
Those changes coincided with the building coming up for a lease renewal and the building owner asking for stipulations "out of our ability," Graham said.
He said he looked around Medford for other locations to move the restaurant, but said promising buildings weren't available for another 18 months.
Meanwhile, a group of investors working to build a small resort in Henderson, Nev., outside Las Vegas, approached Graham with the opportunity to open a new restaurant there.
"Things went from pretty bleak, to all of a sudden this rather rapid change," Graham said. "It's sort of all fallen together."
Graham said a family member is an accountant for the resort investors, and one investor had eaten at 38 Central in the past, but he has yet to meet the group or cook for them one-on-one.
"It's going to leave a real void in the Medford dining scene," said Ed Chun, owner of Sunrise Café and a friend of Graham.
"The food quality was excellent, always fresh and lots of local stuff. We're definitely going to miss it," said Chun.
Because Sunrise Café doesn't serve dinner, Chun said, he often referred diners to 38 Central and said he and his family were regular customers.
Chun said he was confident Graham would succeed in a new location.
"David is passionate about the quality of food, and he knows good customer service," Chun said.
As of this week, 38 Central is closed to the public as Graham and his team wrap up some catering events and some small private dinner events at the restaurant.
As soon as the new year hits, Graham will head to Nevada to give the resort a shot, not sure how things will work out or what his new restaurant might be called. Potentially it could be open within about four months.
Graham said he was hopeful the move would provide him with plenty of new opportunities and "creative freedom."
Graham said he is sad to leave Medford, but has high hopes for the future of culinary scene here.
"It's sad to see 38 go dark," he said.
Each of the employees at the restaurant has been able to secure employment elsewhere already, Graham said.
"We were able to place everyone, which is great," he said.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.