Popular new restaurant will close its doors

Troxel's parts ways with Breakwater after failing to secure lease

Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tonight's last call at Troxel's Steak and Seafood will be the last for the couple that, in the course of a few months, turned the restaurant and bar on Juneau's waterfront into a local favorite.

Unable to secure the lease they expected when they agreed to take over management, Andy and Jamie Troxel decided to quit the establishment, the couple said, with today being their last day.

The restaurant will be closed Thursday and reopen Friday as The Breakwater Restaurant, run much like it was before the Troxels transformed it over the past eight months, hotel manager Chris Kim said.

Andy Troxel said the location was wrong for the couple's plans for the restaurant, which they turned into a hopping scene with themed parties, live music and a low-priced menu.

They will take time off to be with their two young girls, then look for a new location to reopen, he said.

About 20 employees were offered continued employment at the hotel, but Kim said he didn't know how many would accept.

Waitress Jessie Herman-Haywood does not plan to stay.

"You take a business based on these things that work, and you take those things away and it's not going to work," she said.

Problems for the restaurant started last fall during a contested liquor license renewal. Breakwater Inn owner Robin Young was informed by the state alcohol board that he couldn't lease the space as a sole proprietor holding the license.

In lieu of a lease, a management agreement was drawn up and tried by both parties but didn't work out.

"It comes down to, we can't own Troxels there and we don't want anyone else to own it there," Jamie Troxel said. "So we need to find another location where we can own our own business."

Kim, who has managed the hotel for seven months, said Troxel's concept and its quick popularity proved too much.

"The restaurant is not there to create a lot of revenue," Kim said. "It's there to accommodate hotel guests, not to create the busiest restaurant in town."

Young has owned the hotel for three years. Kim interpreted during an Empire telephone interview for Young, during which Young said that despite the crowd the restaurant wasn't making money.

"Gross sales were really high but with all the food costs it wasn't making any profit," Young said. "It's their first time running a restaurant here in Juneau ... If they don't listen then it's hard for us to run a management team."

The Troxels said finances did not play into their departure.

Andy Troxel defended his business concept, and his wife said the couple wanted a landlord, not a manager.

Andy and Jaime Troxel met while working at the The Breakwater under previous management; he cooked and she bartended. They became engaged, then accepted a telephone offer from Young to run the place, starting in July on a handshake deal, Jamie Troxel said.

The couple jumped head first into their first restaurant business venture.

They changed the name and the menu, traded out pink-trimmed decor for black leather lounge furniture, hired a bunch of friends and started throwing parties nearly every night.

Hot dog eating contests, late-night limo rides, live music, ski video premiers - any idea that sounded fun they tried, thinking their clientele would have fun, too. The place was soon packed every weekend.

Meanwhile, they served drinks and food at low prices by Juneau standards: hamburger plates for $8.99, steaks for under $10. Weeknights brought long waits for a table and crowds of regulars.

By fall, the nearby residents hired a lawyer to address loud, drunken behavior waking them up at all hours. Next they got involved in the state's liquor license renewal process.

The license renewal is still pending, but the Troxels and Kim said neighborhood problems were resolved. A spokesman for the neighbors did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment through their lawyer.

Andy Troxel plans to look for a downtown location and said the couple wants to be back in business by next year.



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