Longtime South End restaurant announces sudden closing

Longtime South End restaurant announces sudden closing
Tom Condron’s burgers at The Liberty include house-made pickles (John D. Simmons | Charlotte Observer)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Kathleen Purvis/Charlotte Observer) - Diners have been asking for the last two weeks what would happen with a major Charlotte restaurant group after the tragic loss of a co-owner recently. Now, the chef/owner has announced his plan:

Tom Condron says The Liberty Gastropub's original location in South End is now closed. Condron is keeping the second location of The Liberty open in Blakeney, 9816 Rea Road, and will also keep his French fine-dining restaurant, Lumiere, open in Myers Park.

"Three restaurants are too overwhelming for me," Condron told The Observer on Thursday morning. He wants to concentrate on the other two locations.

Condron made the decision after his co-owner and business partner, Matthew Pera, died suddenly two weeks ago. Condron and Pera had divided the work of the three restaurants, with Condron running the kitchen while Pera, a Charlotte native, ran the service and hospitality — the "front of the house" in restaurant parlance.

"Matt and I were business partners," Condron said. Condron had told The Observer last week that he was trying to find a way to keep all three restaurants open and that he was running the kitchen at Lumiere after the departure of Ben Philpott, who has left to work for Paul Verica at The Stanley.

"This is my baby," Condron said last week. Lumiere's French-focused menu fits with Condron's European background.

On Thursday, though, he said he had decided that he couldn't manage all three and that he decided to close the South End location of Liberty so he could concentrate on the South Charlotte location and Lumiere.

When The Liberty opened in fall 2008, it was ground-breaking as one of the first gastropubs in the area, with a wide selection of craft beers and a menu of hand-crafted burgers, fries and things like Condron's house-made pickles. With more moderate prices than many higher-end restaurants, it did well in a time when the economy was in free-fall, becoming popular with the uptown lunch crowd.

Since then, Condron said Thursday, the South End area has gotten a number of restaurants in a similar style, and he felt that South Charlotte needs a gastropub more.

"We had a great run," he said. "I have to decide what's important. South End has so many great things that South Charlotte doesn't."