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Rosslyn’s Santa Fe Cafe to Close

by ARLnow.com — September 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm 8,264 108 Comments

After 24 years in business, Santa Fe Cafe (1500 Wilson Blvd) will be closing its doors.

The restaurant — the longest-running in Rosslyn — will be closing around Oct. 27 (exact date TBA). Owner Kip Laramie said he made the difficult decision to close after finding out his rent was to increase nearly 30 percent should he renew his lease.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to help people have a howling good time at Santa Fe Café for the last 24 years,” said Laramie. “My staff and I have seen Rosslyn develop from a convenient but somewhat sleepy neighborhood into one of the most vibrant places in the country to live, work, play and learn.”

The news comes as Santa Fe Cafe is in the midst of its annual Hatch green chili harvest festival. During the festival, which runs through mid-October, the restaurant serves special dishes made with the famous green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. The spicy chiles are flown in fresh from a local grower in Hatch, then roasted and peeled.

Over the years, Santa Fe Cafe has served its New Mexico-focused cuisine for a number of notable people and organizations, including the New Mexico State Society, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, former Governor Bill Richardson, the U.S. Supreme Court and a number of local trade associations and nonprofits. The restaurant has hosted benefits for the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and BRAVO.

Laramie, who will turn 60 in March, said he would have liked to run the restaurant for a few more years, before retiring and handing it over to his staff. Now, he said his goal is to make sure his 11 employees — three of whom have been with the restaurant since it opened on May 1, 1988 — find new jobs.

“I’m very fortunate to have this wonderful group that i’ve worked with for so long,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I possibly can to find them an even better job than they had here.”

Laramie said he has had a good relationship with the owner of his building — which is now vacant, after some 1,300 Air Force personnel moved out as a result of BRAC — but the extra rent required to renew the long-standing lease was too much for his small business.

“It was just a decision by the landlord that the space is worth more than I can afford,” he said. “I don’t hold those cards, unfortunately.”

Laramie, a former restaurant broker, said it’s tough for a small, locally-owned restaurant to succeed in a high-rent environment like Rosslyn, but added that he’s not alone.

“I think some of the chains that moved in here are even having a tough time,” he said. Still, Laramie thinks Rosslyn will be an even more attractive place to own a restaurant once a few of the large planned or under-construction new buildings open.

“A couple of years from now, it will be a wonderful place to have a business, with all these buildings that are going up,” he said.

  • Insert.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

    • Frank DeMichele

      I wish I had a dime forr every meal I ate there. What a shame!

  • novasteve

    Great, maybe it can be replaced by a “Tavern” just like everything else new in the area. Let’s get rid of all the old unique things, and replace everything with a froyo place or a tavern.

    • Ol’ Puffy

      What if they served cigarette flavored froyo and gave 20% off to people with standard transmissions – would that warm you up to the idea a little?

      • NovaSteveJR

        that would be anti-america

  • TJ

    This just reminds me that I miss Tom Sarris’ Orleans House

    • Mary-Austin

      Agreed! I always thought it was a cool building and wish they hadn’t torn it down.

      • Greg

        But that space has been put to a much better use…

    • ArlRat

      me too…..wwwwaaa

    • sunflower

      + 10

  • bb

    Damn. There goes the best margaritas in the DC area and some tasty food as well.

  • NIMBY the Chicken

    The landlord must have one hell of a tenant lined up for the rest of the building to justify raising rent in an otherwise empty building. I’ll have to back soon before it’s all over.

    • charlie

      Wow. Exactly. And no, I don’t think they have a tenant signed.

    • SHLady

      maybe this was a tactic to empty the building so they can take it down?

      • Westover

        They were supposed to be doing some major upgrades in the building while it was empty. Maybe they are finished and need to start getting some enhanced revenue going.

    • Clarendon

      Landlords are rarely that smart. They might find out what other people are getting and decide to raise the price. Are the ground floor rents really a big deal to a landlord of a tall office building.

      A way back, maybe 15 years ago I remember a developer telling the people that were complaining about the height of his proposaed building that he needed the height and density in the upper floors to allow affordable rents in the ground floor to attract the mom and pops (that he knew everyone wanted). Course, he was lying.

      • Westover

        According to other sources, the landlord has some possible “food and service” tenants lined up for the space. Part of the deal to Santa Fe was also to relocate within the building, so it seems somebody wants their current frontage and is willing to pay.

  • ADtheDefender

    They did the same thing across the street to the small Korean American owned deli that served some pretty decent food (including homemade Korean dishes). They raised his rent so much he said he could no longer cut a profit. Not Roti occupies the former space (I wonder if they had them lined up before they jacked up the rent).

    This is quite sad as Kip really knows how to run a good lunch spot. We will miss him!

  • Louise

    Great guy, great restaurant. They will be missed.

  • novasteve

    With the new rents, we’ll get another $8/beer place. Great! Gotta love arlington! I think we might still have a dive bar somewhere, need to close that down so we can all show off spending$8 for a beer!

    • Wavy Gravy and the Mashed Potatoes

      Jay’s. Closing eventually as well.

    • LoveThisBar

      The Moose lodge near my parents in Ohio still has 50 cent drafts, and they love to gripe about liberals there – maybe it’s time you found some greener pastures?

    • Suburban Not Urban

      That would be the Forest Inn – and I would say about 2018 or so is the target for overhaulling and raising rents.

      • Westover

        Last few times I’ve been in there it seems to have lost it’s true dive credentials though. Once they took up the old carpet and put in TV’s that were made after 1978 it just got too much of a cozy feel to it. They had damn karaoke one night for cryin out loud.

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    I’ll miss the plastic coyotes they used to give out.

  • Dezlboy

    Before BRACed away, I frequented Santa Fe Cafe. Good food, great employees. Too bad, Kip isn’t considering moving to the “revitalizating” Columbia Pike. [Yes, I am serious.]

    One highlight was seeing Kip through my office window walking on the roof of the building. Really! Alas, not the penthouse floor, but a small abutment at the second floor above his restaurant.

    Good luck Kip, thanks for looking out for your employees!

  • CW

    Ugh, haven’t gone there and now absolutely need to. Will hate to see when some big national account goes in there.

    While the DC real estate market is still roaring along, I’ve heard an awful lot of concern about the big slowdown coming, especially with all the supply in the pipeline. You would think they would take the guaranteed thing in the form of someone who’s been paying his rent for a quarter century, but what do I know.

  • Ian

    Looking forward to the cupcake shop or boutique burger joint that opens up in this spot. There just aren’t enough of those in this area.

    • novasteve

      I’m banking on it being a wine shop or a froyo place that are sustainable and vibrant.

    • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6HREq1sU1W4/Skor1G7y4vI/AAAAAAAAATM/SfqVrym34bk/s320/Bad+Brains+-+Quickness+-+00+-+Capa.jpg OUT OF STEP

      Welcome to Arlington. ALRIGHT! MORE CUPCAKES!!! Maybe, another Starbucks, down the street from Starbucks!!!

      • Eric

        Down the street? The nearest Starbucks is on Oak at Clarendon, just a jaywalk and around the Verizon store.

        • Wilson Blvd

          Don’t forget the Starbucks in the Safeway across the street!

        • http://leslieinadamsmorgan.blogspot.com Leslie

          We can always use one more Starbucks.

          • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6HREq1sU1W4/Skor1G7y4vI/AAAAAAAAATM/SfqVrym34bk/s320/Bad+Brains+-+Quickness+-+00+-+Capa.jpg OUT OF STEP

            Maybe in hell.

  • Joan Fountain

    So much for the canard that it’s the evil gov’mint that drives small businesses under.

    • malaka

      they serve duck tacos?

      • QuangTri1967

        It’s the Alzheimer’s kicking in. Just play along.

      • nom de guerre

        canard n. An unfounded or false, deliberately misleading story.

        • malaka

          thankyou mister guerre. I was aware of that – I thought you of all people would have preferred the other meaning – maybe as one of your many daily specials with microgreens and a chipotle mayonaisse

          • nom de guerre

            I do prefer the French meaning. How about a seared free range duck breast topped with a confit of sweet and tart Cipollini caramelized onions seasoned with herbs and balsamic vinegar and artisanal Manchego cheese on an artisan sourdough baguette with a faro and watercress pesto?

          • Dr_Klahn

            Can I get some fire roasted Hatch green chili on that or is it still too early?

          • malaka

            I’m drooling

          • bemused bystander

            Has Sam’s Corner moved in?

        • CW

          Santa Fe Cafe should serve as the canard in the coal mine regarding what’s to come for other small local businesses…

    • ArlWhat

      They never would have had this problem if the g’ment hadn’t banned smoking. And I hear the landlord drives an automatic as well.

  • Hattie McDaniel

    three of whom have been with the restaurant since it opened on May 1, 1988

    This is a testament to what a good guy Kip is. Too bad more capitalists aren’t like him.

  • Salmon Ella

    It is a hard pill to swallow. Kip is such a great guy, and has been more worried about making sure his employees get jobs than about himself. I hope he finds a great job from which to retire when he is good and ready to do so. If you have never been, go now! The BEST margaritas ever, and of course the food is awesome. We will miss you Kip!

  • Alex

    This is terrible news!

  • wickedrr

    SFC is my favorite place for salsa in the area. Have been going to Kip’s since I worked in Rosslyn in ’95. Kip is an amazing man and does so much for the community. I will truly miss is smile when I go in for lunch! Best wishes to him and the family at SFC. Now to get my salsa fix before the close…

  • Chimi-churri

    Open up a food car man.

    • CW

      Methinks from the tone of the article that he has done pretty well for himself and is going to sail off into the sunset, albeit a bit earlier than he would have liked.

      But a shame to lose any place with character around here.

      • novasteve

        Everything will be okay! We’ll just get another “Tavern” to replace it!

        • Glebe Roader

          Yeah, we know. Another “Tavern” another “Tavern.” We get it. Ha ha.

          • drax

            Liberals!

  • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6HREq1sU1W4/Skor1G7y4vI/AAAAAAAAATM/SfqVrym34bk/s320/Bad+Brains+-+Quickness+-+00+-+Capa.jpg OUT OF STEP

    Arlington lost most of it character a long time ago. Sad to see it happen.

  • Jake

    Where will I eat lunch now?!?!?!

  • CrystalMikey

    So sad to see a local place go. Glad Kip is looking out for his employees.

  • Arlingtron

    This has happened many times before. Local businesses, including restaurants, make up the character of the community and attract people to settle in the area. Real estate values skyrocket and landlords raise rents forcing out the very businesses that made the place. Only bland national chains can afford to rent and wipe out any local flavor.

    • novasteve

      Perhaps crime from the homeless shelter will bring vibrancy back to Arlington?

    • Ren

      +1 – perfectly said and reasoned.

      • Ren

        @ Arlingtron (sorry, novasteve)

    • CW

      Yep. The result will look like Times Square, except without any signs because they are illegal here.

  • Joe Hoya

    “great”, this will be replaced by a “dudes in brown flip-flops” magnet. :-(

  • Cap’t Omar

    Suck it up and get your lunch at Chipotle like the rest of us you big Rosslyn crybabies.

    • http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6HREq1sU1W4/Skor1G7y4vI/AAAAAAAAATM/SfqVrym34bk/s320/Bad+Brains+-+Quickness+-+00+-+Capa.jpg OUT OF STEP

      Time to get inline with the other robots.

  • Greg

    I tried eating or grabbing drinks there several times and they were never open.

  • Susan

    guess i’m in the minority, but i never liked it that much. I didn’t think the food was that great.

    • Hoffa

      Stick to Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

    • Arlingtron

      I think I ate there once. Not a memorable experience and have never returned.

  • James

    What a joke…..30% increase in rent?

    • CW

      You know, I’ve heard of landlords doing that just to get the tenant out so they can reno the spot. Then, once the reno is done they release at a more reasonable rate, say 10-15% above the previous. Wonder if that’s the case here.

  • Larkin

    No!!!! It’s so good! This is very sad news. I just ate there for breakfast today.

  • John Fontain

    Not sure why this part of the story isn’t showing up for everyone, but here is the missing piece of the article…

    “Commenting on Santa Fe Cafe’s pending closure, Rosslyn Business Improvement District Executive Director, Cecilia Cassidy said, “Unfortunately, this is an all too real example of the impact unregulated food trucks are having on the locally-owned brick and mortar restaurants that have been a part of the Rosslyn community for decades.”

    “Cassidy continued, “It is the unfair playing field brought on by food trucks that is causing restaurants like Santa Fe Cafe to become unprofitable to operate. This is why rules are needed to level the playing field to ensure that these cherished institutions remain and thrive in Rosslyn. The Rosslyn BID is here to protect the interests of these vital community treasures.”

    “When informed that the pending closure was actually due to a drastic 30 percent rent increase from property owner and Rosslyn BID President Peter N. Greenwald (of Penzance Companies), Ms. Cassidy responded, “Oh sh%t. Nevermind. No further comment.”

    • SteamboatWillie

      Maybe it’s not showing up because it’s bs?

      • John Fontain

        Not a drop of satire is missed by your watchful eye.

        • SteamboatWillhegetit

          Oh sh%t. Nevermind. No further comment.

    • Oh So True

      +1000

      The Roslyn BID’s position on food trucks is plain stupid.

      Santa Fe Cafe is great!

  • Not Me

    I used to eat occassionally there when I worked at that sweatshop hell-hole Kastle Systems.

    Sad to Santa Fe will be closing it’s doors. Great food, nice folks.

  • Peter

    Sounds like the kind of place where you have to fill out TPS reports and people ask if you have a case of the Mondays…

  • TJLinBallston

    Terrible loss! I was eager to read that Kip would relocate his wonderful New Mexican cuisine to another cool location. Santa Fe is a truly wonderful, authentic bistro. Oh how I will miss it!

  • Henry Spencer

    Darn, my favorite best kept secret in Arlington. Guajillo makes a decent margarita too, but no place has the love for Hatch chillies that Kip does.

  • dewey

    This sucks. My wife and I shall miss this place. The chili festival salmon empanada salad with Hatch green chilies was great, the margarita’s very good. I guess Anita’s is the only New Mexico themed restaurant in the area. I appreciated Santa Fe cafe’s focus on sourcing Hatch chilies.

  • ArlingtonBoy

    This will be a huge loss. My wife and I happened by Kip’s place one evening after shopping at the Safeway across Wilson Blvd and Kip was passing out menus in front of the restaurant trying to drum up dinner business as he was expanding his hours from “lunch only.” We said we’d be back real soon, but Kip was/is such a great, charming guy that that “real soon” was only about 30 minutes as we dropped off our groceries and walked back to check out the NM cuisine! I’m hoping against hope that a miracle will happen and a nice little store front will open up and Kip can install his team there and then ride off into the New Mexico sunset after they get themselves established.

    Another chain spot will go in there and then the area will become indistinguishable from Bethesda, Silver Spring, etc.

  • Cathy Hotka

    There’s no more dedicated people-person than Kip Laramie. A little bit of me just died while reading this piece…but it’s wonderful to see the number of people he’s touched.

  • B.H. Obama

    He didn’t build that business…

    • Willard Romney

      Why can’t everyone inherit wealth like me?

    • TJLinBallston

      There is no earthly reason to politicize this sad community news. We don’t need your guff while we mark the loss of an ol,d friend — the Santa Fe Cafe. Damn!

    • TJLinBallston

      There is no earthly reason to politicize this sad community news. We don’t need your guff while we mark the loss of an ol,d friend — the Santa Fe Cafe. Damn!

  • TJLinBallston

    Meant to post twice to call-out both of the inappropriate posters.

  • emanon

    This makes me sad. When I started working in Rosslyn in 1989 my project team took me for lunch there on my first day. We were frequent patrons for lunch and happy hours for many, many years until the company we worked for moved out. Thanks, Kip.

  • Tom Hannan

    Kip and the whole Santa Fe team are an institution! Congratulations on a great run.

  • John Fontain

    Thank you Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) for causing the closure of this institution. The Rosslyn BID sure is “Improving” things for business located in Rosslyn.

    • questionable

      how so? are they responsible for the landlord raising his rent?

      • Regis

        Not directly. But the landlord is a BID member. The BID is the property owners.

  • ARL4LYF

    Sorry to hear that. We’ll miss you guys!
    Thanks Kip and Peggy!

  • http://KipLaramie Kip Laramie

    To all who have posted all the loving comments, right back at you. You, our treasured guests, and the staff (especially former Arlington chef of the year Oscar Zambrano) have made Santa Fe Cafe a neighborhood place for a howling good time. The Rosslyn BID has and continues to be one of my biggest supporters, not only in my cafe, but also in addressing my concerns for homeless issues in the community. I know of no other BID that taxes itself and then uses the money as Rosslyn’s does to further awareness and offer help to those less fortunate than ourselves. Thank you all for an incredible run!

  • P. Monroe

    Another old-school Arlington icon closes.
    Sometimes change sucks eggs.
    Good luck to Kip and his employees.

  • Jon Polk

    This is heartbreaking news. Santa Fe Cafe is such a unique and wonderful restaurant. It seems so tightly woven in to the local fabric I can’t imagine not having Kip and the Gang around. I’ve had countless meals there over the 10+ years I’ve worked in Rosslyn and the quality has always been stellar. Our entire office of loyal customers are in mourning. As a less desirable alternative, I would love to see a Santa Fe food truck parked outside the same location.

  • PJS

    Wow, very sad. I have been a patron of Santa Fe Café since 1992 and have enjoyed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even happy hours there. Favorite seat was the table for 2 under the howling coyotes. Sorry to see SFC go. It would be great if he considered relocating to Columbia Pike and support the revitalization in that area!

  • Jake

    Great to see the place packed today.

  • HJ

    GOD. DAMMIT.

  • Gretchen

    Santa Fe, Kip, and staff have been part of our lives for over 20 years — we were there the first night they were open for dinner. I celebrated my 40th birthday there. My kids loved to go to Santa Fe, and we always took out of town guests to our favorite restaurant. My now adult kids used Santa Fe as a way to celebrate their milestones as well. The staff actually knows my older son’s order when he walks in the door and always brings an extra large salsa for him. We used to buy a big jug of salsa from Kip to send back to college with him. When I posted something on FB about it closing, even a former au pair from Scotland commented on how sad it was because she remembered it so fondly. It has been a great run and will be tremendously missed. Best wishes to the whole Santa Fe family — you are the best.

  • Rosslyner

    Kip – Please consider relocating to the old Lighthouse Tavern space over by the Continental Pool Lounge (also a good community minded place). Believe the place is still built out as a restaurant and since it has been empty, the rent may be affordable. A pink margarita and crab quesadilla would be perfect on the front patio w ample outdoor seating space there. The building will be redeveloped in few years down the road. When it is, maybe your staff will be prepared to take over the reigns?

  • emanon

    our dentist, Dr McIntyre, is also being forced out and his practice is fortunately moving directly across the street (look him up — he’s terrific!). I would love to see Kip relocate, but it might not be practical. Anyone remember when Oreste’s used to be in Rosslyn on Lynn St? when he moved out of that stretch of stores, AMSers convinced him to set up shop in their new building in Fair Oaks. anyone know if he’s still there? Best sandwich ever.

    • Dan

      Yes I remember Oreste’s…..he did make wonderful toasted subs.

  • ox4

    this is horrible news….my wife and I eat here all the time. Kip and his crew are the nicest people.

  • http://www.nmstatesociety.org/ Corey

    We are still in shock, we thought SFC would be around forever, it has been our New Mexico home away from home for 16 years. Been going there for New Mexico State Society Gold Cups, happy hours, and Xmass parties for more than a decade.

    Landlord has nothing lined up yet, and won’t anytime soon, so they’ll leave the space vacant for 2-3 years. Whatever replaces SFC will never be the same, and will never see a dine of business from us.

  • TheRealStory

    I asked someone behind the counter about the closing last week. She said the current rent is $7000. The landlord wants to raise the rent to $17,000.

    Last I checked, that wasn’t 30%.

    This person also said the current building owner intends to break down a wall and increase the space.

    Did I mishear what she said? No. Did she misspeak? Possibly.

    I think there is something more going on here.

    Also, I’d like to request that the santafe cafe people relocate to McLean since there are several spots which could accomodate the cafe and the area is desperately in need of better food than is available now.

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