WICHITA — Restaurateur Melad Stephan is back from an overseas trip, so now it’s possible to ask about a little situation that happened with his Luca Italian Kitchen a few weeks ago.
Luca, the Old Town restaurant that replaced Stephan’s once-popular Uptown Bistro, has struggled since opening in 2011. It briefly closed around the time Stephan left for his native Lebanon and a European tour, but the closure wasn’t related to the trip.
Stephan had been negotiating for months with Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen to sell him the restaurant.
Nguyen’s Vietnamese restaurant is at 306 N. Rock Road, and he’s interested in having one in Old Town as well.
“We just couldn’t come to an agreement,” Stephan says.
He says he thought the deal would go through, so he stopped ordering food. Stephan says when the sale didn’t happen, he’d already run out of food and had to briefly close.
Nguyen isn’t discussing what happened.
Luca is now open for dinner only. Stephan says he’s saving money by not having to pay for lunch labor. He says the restaurant will remain open, though he adds his standard line: “Everything I have is for sale for the right price.”
Nguyen says he’s still interested in coming downtown.
“We’re still interested, but you know, we have to wait for the right location,” he says.
He’s looking at other plans elsewhere as well and says he’ll keep the public posted.
Stephan, who has a number of revolving business interests in Old Town, has taken a step back at Revolution Rock Bar.
“I was more interested in the kitchen part of it,” he says of the one-time Whiskey Creek space. He’s still using the kitchen for his catering and other businesses, but Finns Lounge owner Greg Finley is now running the bar.
Stephan says Finley is running the business for him until he can get his own liquor license and make changes, which could include a new concept.
Then, Stephan says, “that’s his — whatever he wants to do with it.”