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Tex Wasabi's, founded by Guy Fieri, closes after nearly 20 years in Santa Rosa

Tex Wasabi’s, the downtown Santa Rosa sushi and barbecue restaurant co-founded by Food Network star Guy Fieri, abruptly closed Monday after nearly two decades.

A sign at the Fourth Street restaurant said, “After nearly 20 years, we are sorry to announce that Tex Wasabis had closed its doors. Thank you to all for your support and patronage over the years.”

In 2016, Fieri, the star of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” sold his ownership stakes in Tex Wasabi’s, as well as the Johnny Garlic’s restaurant chain, which he opened in 1996 with partner Steve Gruber. Tex Wasabi’s launched three years later.

Gruber said closing a restaurant is always a difficult decision, but he was proud to have had so many years in business.

“We stuck it out as long as we could. We’re grateful for the public’s patronage,” he said. “An 18-year run is phenomenal in the restaurant business.”

Gruber said Tex Wasabi’s closure marks the end of two restaurants he and Fieri founded. He said he was forced to close because of the “cost of doing business.” Fieri couldn’t be reached to comment.

“The business is actually for sale,” Gruber said. “There is a group of employees trying to pool funds together to reopen.”

Gruber said he would offer “intellectual property” to facilitate a business transfer, but he would not be part of the employees’ effort to reopen the restaurant.

Either way, Gruber said there is tremendous demand today for restaurant workers, so if they aren’t successful reopening the 20 Tex Wasabi’s employees should have no trouble finding jobs.

The closure without warning is a common practice in the business, he said. “A fully staffed restaurant is required for safe operation, which sometimes requires unfortunately short notice,” Gruber said.

A woman who identified herself as the general manager of Tex Wasabi’s Monday was taking measurements of the front windows. She said she had only found out about the closure and had come to post the sign on the front door. She declined to give her name.

Cadance Hinkle Allinson, executive director of the Santa Rosa Downtown District, a part of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, said Tex Wasabi’s was a staple of the downtown dining scene since its opening.

“Although we don’t know the circumstances that led to their closing, we are very sorry to see them go,” Hinkle Allinson said.

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