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Washington Ave restaurant changes: Italian eatery heads downtown; Lebanese spot planned in former nightclub

Restaurant changes on Washington Ave: New Lebanese eatery planned

Beirut Fine Lebanese cuisine sign
Beirut Fine Lebanese Cuisine plans to open around the middle of November. Photo by Eric Sandler
Polovina lock out notice
Polovina may be locked out, but it will reopen downtown before the end of 2014.  Courtesy photo
Beirut Fine Lebanese cuisine sign
Beirut will locate in the former Reign nightclub space on Washington Ave. Photo by Eric Sandler
Beirut Fine Lebanese cuisine sign
Polovina lock out notice
Beirut Fine Lebanese cuisine sign

More changes are coming to the Washington Avenue restaurant scene. 

Polovina Italian Cafe owner Mohammed Al-Ahmed appeared on the Cleverley Show Saturday morning to address the news that his Italian restaurant had been locked out by its landlord. 

Al-Ahmed told host Cleverley Stone that he made a "business decision" to close Polovina but refuted speculation that the restaurant has closed permanently. Rather, it's relocating to a new location on Congress Street in downtown Houston that will be open by the end of the year. Polovina's employees are being kept on the payroll through the transition, and the restaurant doubled its promised Houston Restaurant Weeks donation to the Houston Food Bank as a gesture of good will, Al-Ahmed added.

As for why he's moving his restaurant, Al-Ahmed had a simple explanation. "Washington is not what it was three years ago," he said. He noted that Italian restaurant Coppa had also recently closed its location in the area.

Looking to the future when downtown will have more residential units available, Al-Ahmed predicted good things. "I truly believe downtown is going to grow to more than what it is right now."

Later in the interview, Al-Ahmed introduced Joseph Assaf. Together with a third partner named Denise Wilson, Al-Ahmed confirmed a report by Eater Houston that they're planning to open a restaurant called Beirut Fine Lebanese Cuisine in the former Reign nightclub space on Washington. 

Assaf and his four brothers have owned a restaurant with the same name in Hong Kong for 25 years. Together with his brother Charbel, who will serve as the restaurant's chef, Assaf moved to Houston at Wilson's behest to open in Houston. 

One thing that will distinguish Beirut from the more familiar buffet-style Lebanese restaurants common in Houston is the pace of dining. Assaf explained that "fine dining" in this context means a more leisurely experience, with a better selection of wines and spirits than diners might be used to at similar restaurants. 

If Beirut receives its liquor license soon, it will open Nov. 15. When that happens, diners will have a better sense of how Beirut will distinguish itself. Until then, watch this YouTube clip and contemplate what might be coming.