Brian Metzger is closing his 5½-year-old, financially troubled Jax Kitchen on the northwest side and opening a new restaurant in the Foothills.
On Feb. 21 — Metzger’s birthday and the day his second wife is due with the couple’s first child — he will open Poppy Kitchen in the space that used to house Janos Wilder’s J Bar at La Paloma Resort & Spa, 3770 E. Sunrise Drive.
The 3,000-square-foot space has been vacant since Wilder closed J Bar and its more upscale sibling, Janos, next door in May 2012.
The last day for Jax — Metzger’s first restaurant — will be Feb. 16. He said he had already decided that he would close the restaurant at 7826 N. Oracle Road, at West Ina Road, when his lease is up in June.
“I wish we had made it to the end of June, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it at that corner,” Metzger said.
Metzger Family Restaurants also owns The Abbey, 6960 E. Sunrise Drive, which has been open three years; and Gio Taco, which opened last fall at 350 E. Congress St., at the Cadence student housing complex downtown.
Poppy Kitchen will borrow dishes and influences from Metzger’s other restaurants, including Jax’s goat-cheese appetizer, steak tartare and cast-iron ribeye steak. Longtime corporate chef Virginia “Ginny” Wooters is curating the menu, Metzger said.
Poppy Kitchen’s announcement comes two weeks after Jax completed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, which Metzger filed in early August to give himself breathing room from investors. Creditors accepted the plan, and a bankruptcy judge confirmed the plan on Jan. 3, said his lawyer, Scott Gibson.
According to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records, Metzger owed the Internal Revenue Service $160,000 and the state Department of Revenue $6,700. At the time, he also owed investors and lenders $185,000, according to court documents, and vendors $60,000.
Metzger said three-quarters of his initial Jax investors have moved with him to Gio Taco and Poppy Kitchen. In an email he sent to customers late Tuesday, he said he is looking for more.
“The company is growing, so I always say it’s good to know who’s out there,” Metzger said.
Metzger had been talking with La Paloma officials since last June as the restaurant and resort were one year into a two-year, $35 million improvement project.
La Paloma General Manager Glenn Sampert was not available to comment on Wednesday, but in a written statement he said Poppy Kitchen fits nicely with the resort’s nearly finished redevelopment.
“We took the time necessary to find the right organization to partner with, and Metzger Family Restaurants has been creating extraordinary dining experiences here in our community for many years,” Sampert said.
Poppy is named after Metzger’s grandfather.