- April 21, 2015
Darwin’s on 4th, the award-winning Peruvian restaurant just north of downtown, will close its doors today. In a surprising announcement, Chef Darwin Santa Maria informed his staff Friday he would be closing the restaurant effective Monday.
“We thank you sincerely for your patronage, your support and the priceless memories we made here in the last four years." Santa Maria said in a Facebook post. "We hope that the dining experience here comforted, stimulated and satiated our guests.”
“I’d like to find a new tenant — potentially a well established restaurateur in Sarasota to come in and help keep the Rosemary District alive." Bill Cornelius, co-owner of Darwin's on 4th
Santa Maria cited the Rosemary District’s ongoing homelessness issue, its effect on business and a desire to spend more time with his family as the primary reasons for the closure. Although the downtown restaurant will close, he said the Bradenton brewery and food truck will remain open.
“The food truck menu will keep the spirit of Darwin’s on 4th alive in Bradenton,” Santa Maria said in the post. “My passion is food and craft beer; I don’t care where I serve my recipes from. It could be a restaurant, a food truck or a hole in the wall. I want to continue to develop the concept of combining the flavor of Peruvian food with the taste of craft beer.”
Bill Cornelius, owner of the building and Santa Maria’s business partner since the restaurant opened in 2012, described the closure as a joint decision with a number of contributing factors.
“We always tried our best to have the highest level of quality,” Cornelius said. “There were a lot of experienced cooks on staff helping him, and those labor costs can be sustainable when the restaurant is full, but when you factor in the well-known homelessness problem in the area, it becomes troublesome.”
In a business district that’s struggled to revitalize in recent years, he said losing Darwin’s on 4th is unfortunate, but he remains optimistic.
“I’d like to find a new tenant — potentially a well established restaurateur in Sarasota to come in and help keep the Rosemary District alive,” Cornelius said. “It’s a beautiful space, and it’s one of the nicest kitchens in town. This is such a beautiful area, and I want to see it continue to move in a good direction. I think with the new apartments and the new commercial building on the corner, we’ll attract more people here, but the homelessness problem needs to be addressed.”
Realtor Ian Black, a strong proponent for the revitalization of the Rosemary District says he was disappointed by the news but has similar hopes for the future of the neighborhood.
“There’s the initial shock,” Black said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a chance for people to come together and provide a solution to these problems.”
As a regular participant in joint culinary events like Summer Chef Jam, Pies for Pints and Trash Fish Dinner, Santa Maria and Darwin’s on 4th were part of a local movement toward more collaboration and community among area restaurants.
“It’s a little emotional,” says Steve Phelps, owner of Indigenous. “We’ve been working to build a sort of strength in numbers, and it’s unfortunate to lose one of those strong players on the team. Darwin’s was a great restaurant, and it’s sad to see it go. Whatever the reason, that’s never an easy decision.”