Magnolia’s closes as owner Shanita McAfee-Bryant thinks food truck

Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine Restaurant & Bourbon Bar, at 9916 Holmes, has closed after 10 months.

Just a year ago, owner and chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant told The Pitch that she had signed a lease on that location, in the Gomer’s Plaza shopping development. She was ecstatic to open in a space so much larger than the one that had earned her raves at 2932 Cherry. There, she’d made her food in a kitchen she likened to a closet. Out south, she had some 4,500 square feet, with a kitchen many times larger than what she’d used before. She and her family worked together to turn what had been a nightclub called Groove Station into her dream restaurant.

When it opened last November, the restaurant was fantastic. But some dream restaurants come with nightmares: After a promising start, things went south the past few months. As the weather warmed this past spring, she says, her landlord balked at repairing the air conditioning.

In a statement last week, McAfee-Bryant wrote: “It breaks my heart to close the doors because so many people loved us and literally tried to sweat it out with us. The reality is, due to this summer’s horrible heat and some serious and ongoing problems with our air conditioning system, Magnolia’s business simply withered away, causing us to re-evaluate the restaurant’s long-term viability.”

Meanwhile, the landlord, Jeff Bay of REMOG Properties LLC, sued McAfee-Bryant in April for unpaid rent.

“The air-conditioning units were repaired some time ago,” Bay tells me. (McAfee-Bryant disputes this.) He adds that he and McAfee-Bryant have settled the lawsuit (he was seeking $5,750 in back rent).

McAfee-Bryant and Bay confirm that they have terminated their Magnolia’s lease. “I’m already fielding inquiries from other restaurateurs interested in the space,” Bay says. 

McAfee-Bryant says she’s not eager to open another restaurant. “It’s like asking a woman who just gave birth if she’s ready to have another baby,” she tells me. But she says she is negotiating with a local entrepreneur to operate a food truck using her recipes. “I’ll lend my brand, manage the food truck and be on hand to make sure that things are executed properly,” she says. “I won’t own the food truck.”

And the closing of her short-lived brick-and-mortar space? “I’m at peace with it,” she says. “I’m ready for the next project.”