In the six years since Ricardo Sandoval teamed up with Margaret Mueller to open Felice Urban Café (12502 Larchmere Blvd., 216-791-0918), the restaurant slowly progressed from a quaint but sleepy bistro into one of the hidden gems of the Heights. Thanks to eclectic Spanish and Mediterranean food, the conversion of a detached garage into a bar, and the addition of both a second-floor bar and third-floor lounge, Felice's clientele dropped in median age by decades.
All that will likely change thanks to new management, a move that encouraged Sandoval to move on. "The kids are taking over and I thought that this would be a good time to leave," explains the chef-partner, who also owns Fat Cats and Lava Lounge. "I wish them all the luck in the world."
"The kids" are Mueller's grown children, who are stepping in to make sure their 84-year-old mother's interests are looked after.
"My mother's 84, and my brother and I felt we need to get more involved with the restaurant in the event that something happens to Mom," says daughter Felice Pierce. "Ricardo did a great job working with my mom to bring this restaurant up to where it is, but we will be making some changes."
Changes to the staff, menu, happy hour and hours of operation already are in the works, but others might soon follow.
"There's a lot in flux right now," admits Pierce. "We need a lot more data to make sure we can run this business as a profitable business. Right now, we're just getting a lot of controls in place that will allow us to make the right decisions going forward."
First to go are those late-night cocktails, enjoyed by a large and growing contingent of hip, young guests. Closing time has been moved up from 2 a.m. to midnight.
"I think you're leaving money on the table," says Sandoval. "There are nights there when that place is packed up until 2 am. Why you would want to stop that, I don't know. That whole brand wasn't built from just 5 to 8 p.m."