Restaurant News & Reviews

Vegetable Butcher restaurant closes after 2 years in downtown SLO

Owner of a closed restaurant shares why it’s tough doing business in downtown SLO

Debbie Thomas of Thomas Hill Organics discusses the challenges of doing business in in downtown San Luis Obispo. She closed her restaurant after a year.
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Debbie Thomas of Thomas Hill Organics discusses the challenges of doing business in in downtown San Luis Obispo. She closed her restaurant after a year.

San Luis Obispo restaurant Vegetable Butcher has closed after just two years in business.

The restaurant, which opened at 712 Marsh St. in 2017, announced the closure on Facebook on Wednesday.

“As of (Monday) we are no longer open for operations,” the Facebook post read. “We love SLO and will miss it dearly. Thank you to all our AMAZING guests!”

Vegetable Butcher co-owner and executive chef Becky Windels said that it was not an easy decision to close the restaurant, which focused on Latin American-inspired cuisine.

“We have loved being a part of the SLO scene and are sad to be leaving,” Windels wrote in an email Wednesday. “This decision was not reached easily on our part but after close consideration we are electing to close our business.”

Windels said that construction in the downtown area was one factor in that decision.

SECONDARY 2 Vegetable Butcher exterior
Vegetable Butcher in San Luis Obispo has closed, the restaurant’s owners said Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

Construction on nearby Hotel Cerro, tentatively slated to open in August, “presented intense difficulties,” Windels said. “Most importantly, the hotel is opening about two years later than we expected and were initially advised. Anticipating that this was a possibility we had an option to opt out of our lease at the two-year point. We have exercised that option.”

She also said public perception about parking availability continues to be a problem.

“Many of my friends complained to me that the parking issues downtown was preventing them from visiting our and other SLO businesses in our core,” Windels said. “I never have a hard time finding a parking space other than (Downtown SLO) Farmers Market nights. But what is hurting many downtown businesses is the perception that there is no parking.”

“This is a matter that should concern our community and city leaders,” she wrote.

Windels and her husband, John Windels, moved to the Central Coast from Phoenix, bringing 20 years of experience in the restaurant business.

Vegetable Butcher308
Vegetable Butcher, a restaurant in San Luis Obispo, has closed. Pictured here are co-owner Chef Becky Windels, front, John Windels C.S.W, center, and Richard Hanen, left after the restaurant opened. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

They shared ownership of Vegetable Butcher with Richard Hanen, who also lives in San Luis Obispo County.

Becky Windels told The Tribune in November 2018 that Hanen’s share of the business was up for sale, but the restaurant would continue to remain open and the Windels would maintain their share with continued plans to keep the doors open.

On Wednesday, the Windels extended “a warm thank you to all our patrons for the last two years of business” via the restaurant’s Facebook page.

In her email to The Tribune, Becky Windels also thanked “all our loyal and hardworking employees,” as well as Vegetable Butcher’s vendors and landlords. “We will miss all of you,” she wrote.

Windels said Vegetable Butcher has a pending sale of its equipment.

“It is likely there will be a new and exciting restaurant coming to our town,” she wrote. “We can’t say any more about that at this point as we are bound by confidentiality.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.
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