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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Loca Luna shuts down, citing covid

Top The Mains Cafe is grounded for good by Eric E. Harrison | January 14, 2021 at 6:39 a.m.
Loca Luna on Little Rock's Old Cantrell Road has closed, "for now," says owner-chef Mark Abernathy. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Eric E. Harrison)

On Jan. 6, a couple of hours after this column had gone to press, Loca Luna owner-chef Mark Abernathy announced in an email to patrons that he was closing the restaurant at 3519 Old Cantrell Road, Little Rock — officially, "for now" — and had furloughed his employees, citing the covid-19 pandemic and its economic effect.

"Like almost every casual dining restaurant, we are struggling," he explained. "Many have closed for good. With this latest surge growing out of control, we are seeing our sales continue to drop as more and more people are no longer dining out. In addition to limited seating, we don't have our bar business and we can't book parties in our party room.

"I believe it is only a matter of time before some of my employees test positive. I am furloughing all of my employees so they will get benefits and can return when we reopen. ... I am 100% certain we will be back, stronger than ever, as soon as this gets under control."

Abernathy is continuing to operate his next-door Red Door, 3701 Cantrell Road.

Meanwhile, Dempsey Bakery, 323 S. Cross St., Little Rock, has been closed this week "for safety reasons," according to a Facebook post, because last week somebody there was exposed to the coronavirus. The phone number is (501) 375-2257; the website is dempseybakery.com.

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Top The Mains Cafe & Grille at the general aviation terminal at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, 2301 Crisp Drive, Little Rock, has closed. According to a post on the eatery's Facebook page, "Top the Mains has made the official decision to close permanently 1/7/21. We appreciate the last 5 years of loyalty and support from our customers."

Business section reporter Noel Oman, spotting our mention last week that there was some activity at the vacant restaurant space at 1706 W. Third St., Little Rock, did a little delving for us: "I checked with assessor's office, which records the property was sold in October for $293,000. Seller was listed as Jim Powell Inc., which acquired the property in 1973 for $33,000 from Murphy Oil Corp. and Murco Stations Inc. Buyer was TJM Third and Bishop Properties LLC. According to the Secretary of State's office, its principal address at 501 Woodlane St., Suite 105, in Little Rock, is also home to Mullenix and Associates, a lobbying firm headed by Ted Mullenix and Julie Mullenix."

Yellow Rocket Concept restaurants — Big Orange, Lost Forty Brewing, Local Lime, Heights Taco & Tamale Co. and ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza — have kicked off a campaign to support Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance with a dollar-for-dollar match up, to $25,000 (for a total of $50,000). Donations can be made at the nine physical restaurant locations, restaurant websites and social media platforms; at tinyurl.com/y5x7dnaa.; or by texting ZEROHUNGER to 243-725. The company opened the "bidding" on Monday with an additional $10,000, which the Alliance plans to use to buy grocery cards for families in need, providing food and supplies for more than 150 Arkansas households.

And Centers for Youth and Families is seeking restaurants to sign up for its Emerging Leaders young professionals group's 2nd BrunchFest, which, due to covid-19, will take on a different format this year. They are asking area eateries to provide a customized incentive or coupon for what the nonprofit is calling BrunchFest Pass (coupon book). They'll sell a limited number of such passes — 300 is their goal — at $45 ($55 for the pass and a commemorative cup, $75 for the pass, T-shirt, cup and swag bag with items from sponsors — presenting sponsor is Dover Dixon Horne) to benefit mental health services that help more than 6,500 people each year. The pass, good for dine-in, to-go and curbside orders, will be valid through the end of August. The focus will be on restaurants that serve brunch, but you don't have to serve brunch to get in on the pass — any Arkansas restaurant is welcome, up to a manageable total of 40. Restaurants that have so far committed include La Terraza, Graffiti's, Kemuri, Hill Station, Big Whiskey's and Star of India. Sign up by calling (501) 666-9436 or email foundationmail@cfyf.org. Passes will be available starting in April at TheCentersAR.com. The official campaign kick-off will be May 22 at Heifer Village.

Has a restaurant opened — or closed — near you in the last week or so? Does your favorite eatery have a new menu? Is there a new chef in charge? Drop us a line. Send email to: eharrison@adgnewsroom.com

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