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Yavonne Sarber on the Coming Closure of deNOVO and the Decline of Fine Dining

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Yavonne Sarber on the Coming Closure of deNOVO and the Decline of Fine DiningPhotos by Lauren Sega.
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When Yavonne Sarber moved her upscale eatery deNOVO to Columbus Commons, she didn’t anticipate hurting for clientele. While an increasingly busy area come sundown, Downtown still doesn’t get the foot traffic common to neighborhoods further north on High Street, unless there’s a show at the theatre, or an event in the park. After holding on through a painful August and September, and with the inability to cover the losses, Sarber will likely close deNOVO by the end of the month.

“We’ve agreed to the end of January, and we’ll see this month if we can work something out,” Sarber said. “I think the building owners obviously would like to, but it’s gotta be in everybody’s best interest, so hopefully we can.”

deNOVO first opened in 2012 at 201 S. High St., relocating to the Commons in July of 2016 to escape the nearby construction. Its Commons revival maintained the essence of deNOVO — unique modern art, dramatic lighting, and delicate chandeliers — while creating a brand new look.

A designer by trade, Sarber is the visionary behind deNOVO’s signature style. a representation of her own personal inspirations. She worked with local artists to create the pieces showcased on the restaurant’s walls. Her favorite, a painting completed by CCAD graduate Colleen Scott hangs above the bar just past deNOVO’s entrance.

“For us, we got into this industry to create experiences for people, be it from how you feel when you walk in the door, to what you’re eating, to how you’re being served,” Sarber said, “just how you feel. It’s important for us to be something you can’t wait to come back to.”

deNOVO’s menu brings together an array of light bites, sandwiches, salads, and entrees like slow braised short rib, pan-seared scallops, hickory smoked duck breast and lobster mac & cheese. As diners enjoy their meals with a view of the park and Downtown Columbus, or even just the decor inside, deNOVO seems to offer fine dining at its finest.

So, how did the restaurant lose $80,000 in one month?

Along with the area’s lack of regular pedestrian shoppers and diners, Sarber said the appreciation of fine dining is on the decline.

“I think fine dining — and we’re definitely finer dining — is on its way out and fast,” Sarber predicted, “and I think the trends show that. I think that you really shouldn’t limit your market, especially in a 6,000-square-foot space. I think the trend is going toward your more casual dining.”

Learning that lesson, Sarber may return to the entrepreneurial scene with a revised concept. But, for now, the focus is on “the day, the week, and the month,” she said.

“We’re the true sense of mom-and-pop, so we don’t sit on working capital,” Sarber said, “and at the small deNOVO, when you had losses, you could recoup them within a couple of weeks or a month. When you’re dealing at this scale of things, when you lose eighty grand in a month, it’s just not something where you can go ‘Ok, let me pull that from here to take care of it.’”

“We’ve gotten so much love, and we’ve made our fair share of mistakes, and we’ve definitely learned from them,” she added, “and we want to make sure the community understands how much they meant to us.”

For more information, visit denovobistro.com.

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