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Santa Fe’s Palace Restaurant shuttered

December 6, 2018

The Palace Restaurant & Saloon, which for decades was a downtown Santa Fe fine dining spot and watering hole beginning in the early 1960s, shut down Saturday night, and a lien notice was posted on the door Tuesday.

Palace LLC, which owns the structure at 142 W. Palace Ave., placed the lien notice, which prohibits the removal of any Palace Restaurant property within.

Billy D. Harris Jr., who is behind Palace LLC, declined to discuss the closing Wednesday but said he would go into more detail next week.

Restaurant owner David Bigby did not immediately return a call for comment. Bigby reopened The Palace in 2011 after the property had been shuttered since 2007.

Larry Maldegen, an attorney representing Bigby’s limited liability corporation, Bigwilt LLC, could not shed light on the situation.

“I have no authority to talk,” said Maldegen, who is with the law firm of Maldegen, Templeman & Indall. “I haven’t spoken to my client.”

Harris, who also owns and is a broker at the Harris Group, an Albuquerque real estate firm, has had a “for lease” sign up at The Palace since about August. The lease expires at the end of March, said an employee who did not give a name and then walked into the restaurant.

The business stands on the site of what was a gambling saloon and bordello in the mid-1800s. A horseshoe-shaped door knocker featuring the image of a woman’s leg wearing a fishnet stocking reportedly was found on the site and was incorporated into the Old West theme of the restaurant and bar that opened in the early 1960s, with décor featuring dark wood, red wallpaper and subdued lighting.

Swiss-born chef Roland Menetrey took over the business in 1964 and sold it in mid-1985. Lino Pertusini, who today owns downtown Santa Fe’s Osteria d’Assisi and Pizzeria da Lino, owned the restaurant and piano bar for nearly two decades before selling it in late 2003 to New York restaurant owner Jean DeNoyer, who The New Mexican reported sold the operation without explanation six months later to restaurateur and nightclub owner Cliff Skoglund and others.

The Palace was converted into a Southwestern-themed restaurant called Señor Lucky’s at the Palace that featured a mechanical bull, among other changes. That business shuttered in 2007.

Bigby, retired from a web business in Dallas, opened The Palace Restaurant & Saloon in 2011.

“The idea is to create a place that’s like the old Palace, but a place that’s modernized and updated a bit,” Bigby told The New Mexican in 2011. “We want it to be a locals’ hangout like it used to be.”

A British newspaper in 2013 listed The Palace atop its Top 10 Bars in Santa Fe.

During its various iterations, The Palace was a popular night spot, not too big and not too small, said Al Dente, who with Lester Moore performed at The Palace on a monthly basis as Vanilla Pop, an act they describe as “part Vegas style lounge act, part satire and all fun.”

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said Dente, adding that Taos-based Vanilla Pop was booked to perform there Friday and now is talking with managers of other venues. “Losing that sort of place in Santa Fe is a shame.”

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