Sparrow Shuttered?

Has this high-profile Houston restaurant closed? Signs point to yes.

Has this high-profile Houston restaurant closed? Signs point to yes.

Sparrow Bar + Cookshop interior CROP
Sparrow might be closed for good. Photo by © Debora Smail/Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau

A well-established restaurant from one of Houston's highest profile chefs may be gone for good. On April 29, Midtown restaurant Sparrow Bar + Cookshop posted to both Twitter and Facebook that it "is currently closed" without providing any explanation for why or how long it will remain.

When contacted for more information, chef-owner Monica Pope offered only a cryptic text that read, "That's funny ... I was just going to respond to you ... Go ahead and spin your story. I'll spin mine."

Some indications exist that "currently closed" may mean the restaurant has permanently shuttered. First, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission lists Sparrow on its "delinquent list," which means it has not been paying its liquor wholesalers and has not been allowed to receive any deliveries of alcohol since April 18. 

In addition, a tweet from Brandon Dempsey on April 22 shows this sign in Sparrow's window:

The sign had been removed as of this morning, but it still suggests that things are amiss — a sentiment reinforced by Sparrow's website being offline. Pope's personal domain remains active.

If Sparrow is done as a restaurant, it brings to a conclusion a business that Pope has operated since 2002, when she launched t'afia. Pope earned a James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest finalist nomination for her use of local produce at t'afia, and she remains a champion of local farms. Her recent Edible Houston Local Hero Best Chef award is proof that she retains credibility within the community of people who are committed to utilizing local produce.  

After 10 years, Pope converted t'afia to Sparrow. At the time, she described it as a way to evolve t'afia's focus on local ingredients with a more bar-forward approach. Although the restaurant retains a certain following, it also found itself mired in controversy when the Houston Food Bank revealed last year that it had not honored its Houston Restaurant Weeks pledge from 2013. Pope never provided an explanation for why she didn't follow through on her donation.

Perhaps the most significant sign of Sparrow's fall from grace is that Friday's announcement generated no reaction on social media: no comments on Facebook, no tweets bemoaning its departure. It appears to be a sad end for a once great restaurant, but perhaps Pope has more reinvention in mind.