Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable openings and closings of the week.
Much lamenting and rending of garments took place this week over the closing of Berryhill Baja Grill on Montrose Blvd. A statement from the Berryhill Corporation read simply: "The lease on the restaurant space was held by the franchisee, and the circumstances that led to the decision to close the business did not involve the Berryhill Corporation."
Speculation about those circumstances included the fact that the once-packed Montrose party headquarters had lost much of its Sunday Funday clientele, though another possible consideration is a recent court ruling in which a federal judge sided with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over claims that Berryhill Baja Grill franchise owner Philip Wattel had created an abusive work environment.
"In the order issued by Judge Nancy Atlas on May 29, the court held that evidence, primarily the deposition of the owner of the Montrose location, Philip Wattel, established that Berryhill was 'rife with sexual harassment' during the employment of two female bartenders from approximately 2003 through 2008," says a press release from June 2013. "The judge noted that, in addition to admitting to a number of the EEOC's allegations, Wattel described the Montrose Berryhill location as a 'grab-assy' place."
Meanwhile, a brand new Berryhill location—which we're assuming plans to be significantly less "grab-assy"—is opening next Wednesday, January 21 in Oak Forest, this one run by franchise owners Park and Sylvia Blair. This is the Blairs' second Berryhill franchise, the first being the Heights location on 11th Street. The Berryhill Baja Grill & Cantina at 1201 W. 43rd at Ella Blvd. will feature seating for 180 inside and 50 to 70 people on the palapa-covered patio along with the same fresh-fruit margaritas, fish tacos, and tamales that have made Berryhill a Houston favorite for decades.