Sad news for burger fans (and Sunday-only fried chicken fans) as everybody's favorite local burger joint Santa Fe Bite announced via Facebook today that it would not renew its lease at Garrett's Desert Inn. The restaurant has lived in the hotel since it closed its original iteration, Bobcat Bite, in 2013, when it moved and rebranded sans the Bobcat.
"We'd like to thank the community for their loyalty and support over the years. Especially during a difficult move from our old location," the post reads. "We are leaving for a number of reasons, some personal, some logistical, our lease has ended but basically am not able to do this kind of work anymore. … Our last day will be October 26th. At this point we have no plans to relocate elsewhere."
Tragic. And I'm not even a meat eater, so you know this is serious.
"We feel it's essential at this time," owner and burger master John Eckre tells SFR, also explaining that the restaurant and Garrett's Desert Inn were unable to come to a lease agreement that would be "mutually beneficial."
But he also sounds hopeful for the future.
"When you run a restaurant and you're owners but you work it, you can only do that for a certain number of years," Eckre explains, noting that he's worked the same job for 18 years, his wife Bonnie for 23. "We've kind of come to the end of our ability to sustain that type of commitment."
It's not all awful, though, as Eckre adds they're looking to sell the brand along with the goodwill, the equipment and—are you sitting down?—the recipes.
"If somebody wants to take up the mantle, they could buy the business—but I wouldn't want to just sell it to anyone, like a corporation that just wants to stick a manager in there," Eckre says. "Maybe more of a family thing, though, because that's the way it's been."
In its original location with a mere handful of seats, the old Bobcat Bite quietly carved out a world-famous niche for itself with the extra-thick burgers cooked to perfection and served with fresh green chile. In its new space with its new name, it managed to recapture the same taste and level of service the faithful had come to expect and love.
"It was the restaurant's decision to leave and we're extremely disappointed," says Barbara Salaz, a partner in 311 Santa Fe LLC who leases Garrett's Desert Inn. "We anticipated they were going to stay and continue to add to the hotel, so we were surprised, but I think it's a great location—downtown, one block from the Plaza; it's ideal, I don't think we'll have a problem filling it."
So what's next for John and Bonnie? Maybe a little rest and relaxation?
"That sounds awesome," Eckre says. "I love that idea."
The hotel and the land it sits on is owned by the State Land Office, and the lease to the hotel managers with 311 Old Santa Fe is intended to generate revenue for the benefactors in public education.
The group entered into a 20-year lease this summer.