Gone Not Forgotten
33rd Street Bistro made community happen
By Cecily Hastings
In March, neighbors in East Sacramento were stunned to learn 33rd Street Bistro was closing, six months before the 25th anniversary of its opening in 1995. The East Sacramento restaurant was forced to shut down after the new landlord opted for another tenant, co-owner Matt Haines says.
I feel a special bond with 33rd Street Bistro and its owners, brothers Matt and Fred Haines, who were born and raised in Sacramento. My husband and I started our business that same year. The Haines family has continually advertised with Inside Sacramento since the Bistro opened. They were one of our beloved “lifetime” advertisers.
When the Bistro opened, Matt told me the plan was to showcase the flavors of the Pacific Northwest, where Fred got his start as a chef. They chose the location because the corner of 33rd Street and Folsom Boulevard—which was pretty run down—had potential as a destination.
At the time, it was the only restaurant in walking distance from our McKinley Park home. But even more important, the brothers wanted to create a space that could be the cornerstone of the community they loved. It was a place where friends old and new could gather and enjoy life.
The idea of building community was the part I loved most. My husband and I embarked on a publishing venture in 1995 that was designed to strengthen our communities through sharing great stories of people, places and events in East Sacramento—home for the first edition of Inside.
Over the years we met people from outside the neighborhood who often identified themselves as fans of 33rd Street Bistro.
For 24 years, the Haines brothers leased their building. But in January, the longtime property owner sold to Dowling Properties of Davis. The brothers were soon told Dowling wanted to “go a different direction.” The Bistro’s month-to-month lease would not be renewed, Matt says.
Dowling received several offers from prospective tenants while the building was in escrow. The new owner opted for an upscale Italian-American restaurant. It will open in a few months.
At Dowling’s request, the new tenant approached the Haines brothers and discussed a transition process. Offers and counters were made to sell the name, recipes and personnel, but a deal was not reached.
Sadly, the story is common. Business owners who lease rather than purchase their properties often end up shut out. Others I know who bought their buildings a decade or more ago are looking at comfortable retirements, even if their businesses close down or are sold.
It’s easy to blame the new owner or tenant, especially if you gauge by the angry reaction on social media. But as much as I love the Haines brothers and their Bistro, property owners have the right to sell and maximize their profit. Anyone lucky enough to own a home within roughly 10 miles of 33rd and Folsom has seen their home values escalate wildly in the past decade.
The Haines brothers also own Suzie Burger, Wildwood Kitchen & Bar in Pavilions Shopping Center and Bistro 33 in Davis. A 25th anniversary party was scheduled for Nov. 14. The date now serves as a benchmark for when the Haines brothers would like to open another 33rd Street Bistro in East Sacramento, Matt says.
“We’re devastated. It’s our family and friends, and it is much bigger than a business with us,” he says. “We started from scratch and built a name for ourselves here. It’s our identity.”
Running any type of small business is not for the timid. It’s tough, demanding and often unforgiving. And it’s highly risky, especially in the food business.
The presence of deeply resourced national chains coming to town to gobble up food and hospitality dollars adds more pressure, as do rising product and labor costs.
The incredible local hospitality scene is the primary reason why I published our book, “Inside Sacramento: The Most Interesting Neighborhood Places in America’s Farm-To-Fork Capital,” in 2017 and 2019. I wanted to showcase the best of the locally owned businesses that make Sacramento unique. The first place I considered for the book was 33rd Street Bistro.
The Haines brothers delivered what they set out to create in 1995. While the Bistro reflected the identity of the Haines brothers, it also captured the identity of East Sacramento. I wish them the very best luck in finding a new home.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.