Biz Buzz: SLO Baja Fresh the latest casualty of the economy

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill in downtown San Luis Obispo closed this week, a victim of the weakened economy, a corporate spokesman said.

The restaurant was owned by Paul Knecht, who purchased two Baja Fresh restaurants, one at 1085 Higuera St. and a second at 933 Rancho Parkway in Arroyo Grande, in 2004 from Tom and Hope Molyneux. The Arroyo Grande location remains open.

Knecht, founder and president of the national purchasing group Anthony Owen Co. in San Luis Obispo, owns franchise rights to all Baja Fresh restaurants in northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. He did not return calls from The Tribune on Wednesday.

He worked as an apprentice chef in Guadalajara, Mexico, and owned several Mexican restaurants in Washington before moving to San Luis Obispo.

— Julie Lynem New hours for Paso’s Panolivo

Panolivo restaurant is reinventing itself and its operations, owner Didier Cop said.

The Paso Robles restaurant is now open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Diners will be seated from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The restaurant stopped serving dinner daily in 2007 because business had slowed but restarted a year later, offering dinner only Fridays and Saturdays. The French bistro’s San Luis Obispo location closed in 2006.

The change is occurring now to simplify the restaurant’s hours for customers and because Cop’s wife and co-owner, Beatrice, has recuperated from a shoulder operation and is able to help oversee the restaurant. The economy is also starting to see some signs of recovery, Cop noted.

He has hired seven new employees and added some small touches to the interior, making it more open.

“Things are getting a little bit better,” he said. “The new reality is that this is going to be a slow recovery. We want to do what is right for the community as well as be realistic.”

Panolivo has changed its dinner pricing so that it’s more in line with lunch. Entrees will be priced between $12 and $19, he said. As well, the restaurant will offer lighter fare in the evening, including Panini sandwiches and salads.

Cop is also tweaking the restaurant’s name slightly to reflect an emphasis on family dining. It will be called Panolivo Family Bistro.

“We are finalizing a very extensive kids menu, providing healthy alternatives as well as all-time favorites,” Cop said. “There will be a lot of choices for kids and adults.”

— Julie Lynem

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World Rhythm and Motion Dance Studio has moved to a new San Luis Obispo location at 207 Suburban Road, Unit C.

The studio has been providing cultural dance and drumming lessons on the Central Coast since 1998. It offers classes in hoop dance, hip-hop, aerial dance and belly dancing, and it hosts several dance troupes.

— Julia Hickey