It's been nearly a week since the owners of the Pete Harris Cafe filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, forcing them to shut the doors for the immediate future.
But the question remains: is there a future for the celebrated, family-owned restaurant in historic Ledbetter Heights?
As a relative newcomer to the area, I've seen a handful of restaurants close over the past few months (Pete Harris, Semolina's and Santa Maria Barbecue) and one that appears headed for similar trouble (Caliente, according to its manager). To me, that's more disturbing than the arrival of P.F. Chang's, T.G.I. Friday's and Logan's Roadhouse, all in southeast Shreveport, is exciting.
Don't get me wrong: I love national-chain restaurants and southeast Shreveport; I'm no snob in that regard. To me, a chain restaurant is simply a replication of a successful eatery. But on some level, I'd like to see the chains and the smaller, family-owned restaurants co-exist prosperously.
Without being a party-pooper, that should mean: no more development along Youree Drive until other parts of Shreveport prove they can handle it. The survival of places like Pete Harris and Caliente are integral to any effort at revitalizing Shreveport's dying inner city.
City Councilman Joe Shyne, who was a lunchtime regular at Pete Harris, is mounting a 13th-hour effort to save the restaurant, recently meeting with a few interested investors. "It needs to be saved," Shyne said. "It means too much ... it's history."
We can all agree there's a place in the future for historical landmarks like Pete Harris, right? Is it the city's job to look after inner-city institutions, albeit a private one, like this? Is this solely the responsibility of owners who couldn't handle the financial burden? Or do we, the paying customers and economic engines behind the city's increasing sales tax revenue base, share in the blame for the death of Pete Harris and restaurants like it?