Allan Rosenberg, chef, partner and creator of Fontleroy’s in the Highlands is no longer working at the midscale Southern food restaurant.
According to Rosenberg, he left the restaurant two months ago when his business partner in Fontleroy’s, Scott Dennison, requested he come help at Citizen 7, a Norton Commons taqueria and tequila bar that has struggled with kitchen turnover since opening earlier this year. As consulting chef for Citizen 7, Rosenberg created the menu and helped open the facility.
He insisted his departure from Fontleroy’s “wasn’t a bad thing,” and added that he doesn’t “know what’s been going on there since I left. I’ve just focused my energy on Citizen 7.”
According to sources who declined to comment on the record, Fontleroy’s is battling sagging sales and turnover problems of its own. And while Rosenberg couldn’t comment directly on the restaurant’s challenges, he allowed that the location—set back off the road at the corner of Bardstown Road and Grinstead Drive—might not be ideal for a restaurant.
“Fontleroy’s is the best, worst location there is in the area,” he said. “There’s really only one way to get into and out of the lot there, and that’s a pain in the butt.”
Opened last fall, the restaurant garnered good reviews, and all seemed well as it added breakfast service earlier this year. But Rosenberg said adding breakfast may have dampened dinner traffic, plus he wonders if Fontleroy’s dinner menu is priced too high for the area.
“I’ve been told breakfast is busy there, but I’m not sure if it took away from dinner aspect,” said Rosenberg, who authored all Fontleroy’s menus. “Maybe it became (in people’s minds) a special occasion restaurant because of the (dinner) cost.”
A July 30 Facebook post by Fontleroy’s bartender Ashley Towning painted a picture of a restaurant facing significant problems.
“Many people have asked me what has been up with Fontleroy’s,” began Towning, whose Facebook name is Smashley Marie Towning. “At this point, everything is so messed up with management and the concept in general that I’m not really airing this to bash them or anyone, I’m sure anyone who has visited in the past 6 months or so can figure it out themselves.”
Towning’s post accused management of “not caring enough and lacking true restaurant knowledge to continue running the place properly,” and “we (the staff) have had extensive evidence pointing to the fact that the physical building space is going to be sold/rented to a new owner under our noses.”
In a private Facebook discussion with Towning, she stood by her comments, yet she remains employed at Fontleroy’s.
Asked whether Fontleroy’s closure is imminent, Rosenberg said, “(Dennison) hasn’t mentioned closing it to me, though I know it’s up for a lease renewal in November.”
Four years ago Dennison leased the building and opened an Uncle Maddio’s pizza franchise there. According to Rosenberg, when Dennison closed the fast-casual pizza concept, “he was still in the Maddio’s lease, so he just repurposed the restaurant as Fontleroy’s.” He declined to speculate on whether Dennison would renew the lease.
Dennison was not available for comment on the matter by press time.
Rosenberg also mentioned that the neighborhood around Fontleroy’s is experiencing negative changes. At the Bardstown-Grinstead corner of the Fontleroy’s lot is a TARC bus stop where homeless persons sleep on its bench and the sidewalk below it. Additionally, the Speedway C-store store directly across Grinstead is widely known among Highlands business owners and residents as a hub for drug deals.
“That whole intersection has become really sketchy,” Rosenberg said. “When I had Papalino’s Pizza down Baxter (Ave.) a few years ago, the neighborhood wasn’t like this. The Highlands is changing a lot there.”
In the coming months, Rosenberg will return to the pizza business when he opens Parlour in Jeffersonville near the end of the Big Four Bridge’s footpath. Rosenberg, whose arm bears a tattoo of a pizza slice, said he’s excited to return to the craft of pizza making.
“I’ve always liked it,” he told me recently. At one point, he was involved in two Papalino’s pizzerias, but he sold his interest in the company. Just one remains in business in the Springhurst neighborhood. “I’ve really missed not doing it.”