Ayse Meze Closes

Ayse Meze Lounge at East and Patrick streets was dark Tuesday evening and a large sign on the door stated the establishment closed after seven years in business.

After seven years in business, Ayse Meze Lounge has shut its doors for good. The downtown Frederick restaurant’s final day serving customers was Sunday as Nezih Pistar, a partner in Fountain Rock Restaurant Management Group, which owned the business, explained Tuesday afternoon.

The decision was a quick one, he said, and it came as a result of a combination of things, which included the end of Fountain Rock’s lease on the building, along with lingering maintenance issues Pistar declined to detail in an interview Tuesday.

Ayse, as it turned out, was the only building the management group didn’t own when it came to its properties, which include Brewer’s Alley, Pistarro’s Ristorante Pizzeria, Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar, and Bella Trattoria, and according to Pistar, the group didn’t want to invest more money into a building it didn’t own.

“We own all our other businesses and buildings, and it’s a big difference,” he said. “It came down to, ‘Hey, is it worth it? When the lease is up, do you want to commit to another five years?’ We own too many restaurants for it being a small town, so it got to the point where we were competing with ourselves, and I don’t want to do that anymore.

“It was a very stressful decision,” he added. “It happened so fast, my wife didn’t even know. But in the end, it was a quick business decision, even though it just happened so fast.”

Phil Bowers, one of Pistar’s Fountain Rock business partners, stressed Tuesday that more than anything, the closing was a function of his group preferring to own the properties that house its businesses.

“The bottom line is that the lease was up, and anytime a lease is up, you have a landlord who’s looking for certain things and a tenant looking for certain things, and if they don’t line up, you can’t get the lease renegotiated — that was the main thing,” Bowers explained. “It was a nice space. I’m not going to complain about the space. Our business model has started to be wanting to own our properties. When you do want to make investments, it’s easier to make those on your own property than it is on one you’re renting. That’s kind of the meat of it.”

News of its closing began to spread through parts of the Frederick community Tuesday morning before Pistar confirmed the decision with a Facebook post.

“We want to thank you for all your past business and support for the past seven years,” the post read. “We are very thankful and grateful in having you as our customer and endless gratitude for our staff.”

Among the people affected by the closing are the musicians who were booked to play at Ayse over the next few months. Most received an email early Tuesday from Jaime Ellis-Ade, who booked entertainment for the lounge, explaining the decision to shut its doors.

One group that played at the restaurant consistently throughout its existence was the Monocacy Jazz Quartet. Having entertained the crowd nearly every Thursday since the business opened its doors, the band’s residency dated back to the days when it was called Danielle’s. Mark Lysher has been a member of the quartet for years, and when he received word of the news, he was disappointed.

“I think we kind of go with the building,” Lysher said Tuesday. “We have been playing in that building for 12 years, 13 years. I know that they didn’t close it because there was no business coming in — we’ve played there plenty of nights when it was packed.”

Indeed, though business was good, Pistar stressed how conflicted he was about the decision, asserting how important it was to both him and Bowers to provide jobs for those in Frederick. It’s because of as much, he said, that everybody who worked at Ayse was offered jobs elsewhere in the company.

Bowers, meanwhile, noted that while Ayse’s employees were offered positions at other restaurants, he wasn’t yet sure who would transfer to any of the group’s other locations.

“That’s the one advantage we have,” Bowers said. “We have other opportunities for our employees, so we’re offering everyone a job. I’m just not sure that everyone is going to take it.”

As for what’s next, Pistar, whose mother was Ayse’s namesake, revealed that he has a few projects in the works, even if they are on a smaller scale than the one that closed Sunday on North East Street. He was mum on the details, though he also added that he’s looking at moving Ayse’s entertainment to either Pistarro’s or Brewer’s Alley.

Still, both Bowers and Pistar expressed immense gratitude for the staff they employed as well as the memories many families made at the restaurant over its seven years. Pistar, for one, noted how special it was to see his children get married at the restaurant, while Bowers explained that from the beginning, it was his partner who made the location special.

“Nezih did a really good job putting that thing together and maintaining it,” Bowers said. “We had a really good run there. It was a great restaurant and critically, people loved it. It was a lot of fun.”

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter: @colinpadraic.

(29) comments

des21

Good food, lousy location. Kind of like Il Porto.

That Guy Garcon

Of all these other restaurants mentioned, Brewer’s Alley, Pistarro’s Ristorante Pizzeria, Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar, and Bella Trattoria, this would be the last one I would let close. Change Brewer's Alley or Pistarro's into the new AySe very soon please. Thanks

public-redux

Wah. This was my favorite local restaurant.

Waltsun

Too bad Nezih, Phil and partners can't buy Asiana (sp) on Market St. and reopen there. Frederick's largest hunk of blight would be a prime location in the proper hands. They had to foresee this coming and likely have plans for something else or another location.

gabrielshorn2013

Great idea Waltsun. Close parking too. I hope she will consider selling, but that will remove Mrs. Ro's big effewe to the city.

wscjr

If a survey were given, I would recommend a true, traditional Korean Barbeque Restaurant is needed, like those found in Ellicott City. Perhaps not necessarily at this 'historical' site, but somewhere in the Frederick Community to continue the expansion of diverse dining options in the area and to avoid having to travel East to Ellicott City or South down I-270.

awteam2000

💆‍♂️I’m seeing another Mexican restaurant coming to town.

joelp77440

Crap! They have great Thursday Happy Hours. Had a last there for Halloween last year.

IREADFNP

The Shamrock, Barley & Hops, Blue Side and now Ayse all closed. It's a notoriously difficult business to succeed in. Frederick is lucky to have talented restauranteurs investing in Frederick - Voltaggio, Tauraso, Firestone's, Fountain Rock, the Wine Kitchen. I'll look forward to seeing what new and exciting entry Everedy Square will attract to this prime location. It's a great space for a restaurant with onsite parking. Ayse, you will be missed.

Burgessdr

Why is nothing mentioned in the article about Bert Anderson who owns the property? If Nezih cant make it there no one else can. It will probably sit vacant.

KellyAlzan

Wow. You just displayed your foolishness. What benefit is it to anyone for the story to make mention of the building’s owner by name? Did he do anything illegal? Did he do anything unethical? None of that is the point of the story. The point is that they are closing and it’s because they are not happy investing money into a property they do not own.

For you to desire mention of the building’s owner, you’re focus is on attempting to smear. You are vile.

Burgessdr

Whatever

shiftless88

Kelly's hyperventilating notwithstanding, it would have been good reporting to have spoken with the landlord to see if they had any plans or even any comments.

KellyAlzan

Shift a my comment is in response to the CONTEXT that Donald burgess used.

You make a nice thought. But, that wasn’t what Donald was intending.

shamar

*your focus

mllagos

It was a sad day when I heard this news, I ate there with family, I ate there with friends, I ate there for business and loved it so much that I even ate there alone. We must respect their business decision because a lot of pieces go into making this type of change in their portfolio and in Frederick BUT with that said, I hope they find a way, even if it is on a smaller scale, to bring Ayse Meza back. It was loved by so many.

threecents

This place was always busy when I came by. Hard to believe it is closing. Best brussels sprouts ever. It is a big place, so pretty soon I expect people will be suggesting what should take its place.

Vegan

It feels like a lot of business are closing in Frederick.

notconcerned

Business decision, read the article. A lot of businesses are not closing, the Trump economy ROCKS!

duffy5x

Trump is a international embarrassment on EVERY level. If you can’t see the danger he presents...well, you’re not paying attention.

shiftless88

User; it was notconcerned who brought up Trump so ask her.

richardlyons

[lol]

FCPS-Principal

Frederick itself is slowly closing. Nationally everyone is employed but only at subsistence wages. There is little cash flow for things like restaurants and there is no growth overall except in isolated pockets fed by federal socialism.

threecents

Frederick is doing great and has a bright future, due to its identity and location.

User1

What are you people reading? Just a simple business decision. As they said, they didn’t own the building and the lease was up. Seems “landlords” would rather have a vacant building then a thriving business. And I also get from the article that they refused to correct “lingering maintenance issues”. Another issues that was stated was that they were competing with themselves due to all the other restaurants they own in the city. So, sorry Fake Principle business is good.

gabrielshorn2013

You are correct User1, and it was clearly stated in the article...a few times. Some people just read the headline and go right to the comments to comment their predetermined opinion, devoid of facts.

gabrielshorn2013

Subsistence wages? Wages are rising organically based on demand in the market against labor supply. Those that were unemployed now have jobs, and can work their way up the ladder. I don't know where you get your jobs information, but you need to find another source because it is inaccurate.

gabrielshorn2013

FAUX, maybe you should read some other stories in today's paper, such as this one:

"“Luckily, the outlook for consumer spending remains upbeat,” Ksenia Bushmeneva, an economist at TD Economics said. “With the labor market continuing to churn out solid job gains, interest rates remaining low, and wages rising at a decent pace, the fundamentals for consumption are healthy heading into the new year.”"

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/public/ap/us-services-firms-grew-at-a-faster-pace-last-month/article_8388f4d0-2553-55a0-8a16-46c62b44fe14.html

threecents

...and a lot are opening.

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