LGBTQ-owned madison Restaurant Harvest to Remain Closed

by | Mar 1, 2024 | 0 comments

The pandemic and subsequent hardships with inflation, changing consumer habits, and difficulty keeping staff have caused the closure of Madison institution: Harvest. The fine dining establishment on the Capitol Square had been a staple for 20 years.

The owner, Tami Lax, also owns the busy and popular The Old Fashioned next door, and has decided to keep her focus there instead of trying to also revive a restaurant that has been shuttered for so long. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, this decision was finally fully reached when it came time to renew the lease.

Several factors went into this decision. Lax told the State Journal it was difficult to find employees, especially those versed in the intricacies of fine dining, after restaurants reopened after the shutdown. She moved the kitchen staff of Harvest to The Old Fashioned, stating, “I was just going to move them back in that direction and rebuild the front of the house,” she said. “But I turned 62 this year, and to be honest with you, it’s almost like opening a brand-new restaurant after that amount of time of being closed.” She continued, “I want to just put my focus on The Old Fashioned and get back to cooking and enjoy that part of my life.” Additionally, the building that housed Harvest needs some work to get it up and running again.

In the Wisconsin State Journal Lax described the hardships and hesitations she faced while trying to reopen the restaurant. She started Harvest Go in March of 2020. “It was comfort food in larger portions that could travel, but in keeping with Harvest’s commitment to buying local, fresh, and organic whenever possible,” according to the State Journal. She indicated that it was never very financially viable, but she did it to keep her employees and to keep momentum going for the restaurant, but she still struggled to both keep and attract knowledgeable employees and chefs. She cited seemingly endless interviews, but with little follow-through from potential employees, with many deciding to go elsewhere and some leaving the restaurant industry entirely.

For it’s part, The Old Fashioned is seemingly thriving, with three working kitchens, a dining room expansion into the old L’Etoile space, and plans to use the space previously occupied by Harvest to both continue to expand The Old Fashioned’s dining area, and open “a Wisconsin-centric retail shop selling Wisconsin spirits, beer, Old Fashioned T-shirts and hats, and local ingredients used by the restaurant.”

But the loss of Harvest hurts. Lax told the Wisconsin State Journal, “Knowing that we made an impact and there are so many people that really enjoyed the restaurant and spent sort of landmark times—their anniversaries and weddings—and just all the people that I’ve worked with over the years, it’s really hard to say goodbye to that.”

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