Downtown restaurant Jonathan at Gratz Park to close; new eatery to open in hotel space

jpatton1@herald-leader.comJune 9, 2014 

Jonathan at Gratz Park, a stalwart of fine dining in downtown Lexington, will close at the end of the month.

Dinner service June 28 will be the final meal at Jonathan, its management said in a news release. The restaurant opened in 1998 in the Gratz Park Inn.

The boutique hotel, at Second and North Upper streets, announced Monday that Mark Wombles, owner and chef of Heirloom in Midway, would open a new restaurant, Distilled at Gratz Park Inn, focusing on local ingredients.

"Distilled at Gratz Park Inn's vision will be to remove the nonessential ingredients from fine dining and focus on food quality, presentation and a casual environment," Wombles said in a statement.

Distilled at Gratz Park is expected to open in late summer after remodeling.

Wombles opened Heirloom in 2006 with Will Preston; it will remain open.

According to a separate news release from Jonathan at Gratz Park, the restaurant's lease was not renewed by the hotel's management, Lexington-based facilities-management firm CRM Cos. The restaurant said its chef and owner, Jonathan Lundy, and general manager TJ Cox appealed the decision but were unsuccessful.

"This came on really quickly and genuinely surprised me," Lundy said Monday.

"We're going to focus on making these next three weeks the best weeks we can," Lundy said. "We've had 30 reservations added today, had lot of support for the community, a lot of people wishing us well, feeling nostalgic. ... I'm going to try to enjoy these last three weeks.

"I think we're going to be busy; I don't want to let people down."

Lundy said he hadn't begun to think about his next move, although he's had calls about properties to lease and has looked at sites. No contract has been signed, he said.

He must vacate the Gratz Park premises within 60 days.

Jonathan at Gratz Park is known for its innovative take on Southern cuisine and its whiskey selection, often hosting master distillers from Kentucky's bourbon distilleries.

In a 2005 review, Herald-Leader restaurant critic Jacalyn Carfagno wrote, "Virtually everything at Jonathan at Gratz Park is a delight to the senses. The dining room is lovely, the tables beautifully appointed, the dishes a delight to the eye."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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