Greene returns to Aspen, says she doesn’t know what led to eatery’s demise; ilume’s Luke Crosland says space shouldn’t be difficult to lease

SHORT-LIVED | Monica’s Nueva Cocina and Mi Lounge was open for only four months.

From staff reports

Monica Greene said she doesn’t know what led to the closure of her new Cedar Springs restaurant after only four months.

“I have no comment,” she wrote to Dallas Voice in a Facebook message from Aspen, Colo. “Just note that I left before the restaurant closure, and I left on good terms with both landlord and my former partners.”

She suggested getting the story from her former partners, the owners of Axiom Sushi. “They know what happened,” she wrote. “I don’t.”

The owners of Sushi Axiom did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

When Greene announced on Facebook on Dec. 12 that she was no longer affiliated with the restaurant that bears her name, she assumed it was still open and operating.

“For the moment the restaurant still carries my name,” she wrote. “I hope that changes soon. I believe that the owners of this restaurant still committed to serve great Mexican food. I wish them the best.”

But by then, doors at Monica’s Nueva Cocina and Mi Lounge were locked with curtains and blinds drawn and no sign in the window indicating whether the closing was temporary or permanent.

Luke Crosland, developer of ilume, said he was hesitant to comment on something he didn’t have details about.

“What went wrong is a partnership issue between Monica and her partners,” he said. “I’m just as disappointed as everyone else that it didn’t work out for her.”

He said before she left, she terminated the lease.

“I’m very fond of Monica,” Crosland said. “I’ve known Monica for 35 years and think the world of her, and I’m sorry that her plan didn’t work out with her partners but again there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Greene was owner of Monica’s Aca y Alla on Main Street in Deep Ellum for more than 20 years. She also opened a few other restaurants during that time including Ciudad on Oak Lawn Avenue.

After closing Ciudad, Greene moved to Aspen, Colo., where she consulted for a local restaurant. In 2010, she returned to Dallas to open BEA near Bishop Arts District.

Last year, Monica planned to open a new restaurant called Tajin in a smaller space in ilume. But halfway through building, she joined forces with the owners of Sushi Axiom.

Sushi Axiom has other locations on North Henderson Street and in Addison, Fort Worth and Burleson.

They combined spaces and the new restaurant opened in August.

Greene is a transgender icon in the Dallas LGBT community who once ran for City Council, and the new Monica’s restaurant was a highly anticipated addition to the Cedar Springs strip.

Crosland is optimistic that the space will be filled soon. He noted that Dish has been operating since ilume opened and has been doing well.

“We see it as a restaurant to serve our neighborhood, our community down there,” he said. “It’ll be something special when it comes back.”

He said his company had already been contacted by several interested parties and they’ve begun preliminary discussions about the 7,000-square-foot space.

“It’s got a fantastic layout in it and it’s a great location with great parking,” he said.

He said growth in the area will make the location even more attractive. That growth includes ilume Park under construction a block away.

“We have 500 residents at ilume and we have another 500 that will be living across the street,” he said. “And then there’s another 650 apartments going up in walking distance.

“We just want to get the right operator in there, and we wish everyone involved in the previous operation the best of luck.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 21, 2012.