Stars restaurant no longer shines at posh Pacific Place

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Stars Bar & Dining, the crown-jewel restaurant of the upscale Pacific Place shopping center in downtown Seattle, abruptly closed this week.

The closure took employees and customers by surprise.

Yesterday, the restaurant still appeared ready for business, with place settings on the tables and its signature wine display in the window.

But the glass doors were locked and a small piece of paper taped on them said the restaurant had closed as of Monday.

Simon Harrington, manager of the original Stars in San Francisco, said the Seattle restaurant was closed because lease negotiations with the landlord fell through.

But Lynn Beck, Pacific Place marketing director, said, "They had a lease agreement with us. ... They were just not a good fit for the market."

Stars, known for its sophisticated bar scene and such dishes as the $48 Stars Shellfish Platter, opened in 1984 in San Francisco.

It was founded by Jeremiah Tower, the so-called father of New American Cuisine. It quickly lived up to its name, attracting such clientele as Luciano Pavarotti, Liza Minnelli and Joe DiMaggio.

But by the time it arrived in Seattle, it had been sold to the YTC Group, led by financier Andrew Yap. Tower had become a figurehead.

Stars' most recent chef in Seattle was Christopher Fernandez, who came from the San Francisco restaurant last summer to revitalize the menu.

Martin Robert, assistant manager, said everything seemed fine at the restaurant Saturday.

But Sunday, he said, general manager Peggy Boston received a phone call from Yap's lawyer saying the restaurant's 60 or so employees needed to go there and fetch their personal belongings.

"For us, it was worse than the 6.8 earthquake," Robert said.

The recently remodeled Stars is one of five Pacific Place tenants to close over the past year.

Beck, the marketing director, said that's not a sign the 2½-year-old shopping center, which now has about 40 shops, four restaurants and an 11-screen cinema, is in trouble.

"It's sad to lose a tenant. But you know, this is retail, and it's not unusual for turnover," she said. "While turnover is not welcome news, it does give us a chance to bring new tenants into the marketplace and keep it fresh."

Other stores that have closed are:

  • J. Peterman, the clothing and home-furnishings chain owned by Paul Harris Stores in Indianapolis, in December. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. Beck said a new tenant for the 6,724-square-foot space is expected to be announced in a couple of weeks.
  • Custom Shop Shirtmakers/Clothier, based in Ohio, this past weekend. A new tenant for that 1,187-square-foot space is expected to be named soon, Beck said.
  • Colorado Pen's 565-square-foot shop, in late January, about the time the Denver company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • Louie Permelia, 1,258-square-foot women's apparel store, about a year ago.

The small chain has stores in Redmond, Bellevue and Coeur d'Alene.

Bill Kossen's telephone message number is 206-464-2331. His e-mail address is Nancy Leson can be reached at 206-464-8838, or