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The days of sipping wine and eating oysters on the porch at The Red Door with local musicians playing the acoustic guitar are over. The eclectic, fine-dining establishment announced on its website and Facebook page Tuesday that it has closed its door. It had been open for 15 years.
Owner Richard DeAngelis said he decided to close the restaurant because he wants to spend more time with his family. The home it operated out of has been sold. With a few deals falling through in the past, he said he had to keep the restaurant’s closure a secret until the contract was signed.
“We had some of the best servers and people in the kitchen. The staff was great. What I’ll miss the most is the wine dinners,” DeAngelis lamented.
More than 100 people responded to the message on the restaurant’s Facebook page, many lamenting the closure and reminiscing the memories made while dining there.
“Thank you for the lovely, evening dinners and for opening your patio to Buena Market back when we were first getting started. Sending lots of love to the Red Door team,” wrote Stephanie Bernal.
“I’m sorry to hear this but completely understand how tough the (business) is. You all made a lot of happy memories for a lot of people and we are all thankful to you, Rich, and your whole staff. Much love and respect,” wrote Natalie Oldenkamp.
“You and the entire Red Door experience really moved Lakeland forward in a positive and delicious way….It was such a great vibe and a great way to discover new wines and make deeper connections with friends and family. The end of an era for sure! “ wrote Wesley Barnett.
DeAngelis said he’d been trying to sell the restaurant since 2019, before the pandemic, because he felt he wasn’t being a good owner living up to his high standards.
“I wanted to prove Lakeland could do fine dining. I was sad I couldn’t make it last,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis grew up in New Hampshire, in an era that he said chain restaurants were non-existent. When he thinks of a fine dining restaurant, he envisions ever-changing seasonal menus, fresh ingredients and everything made from scratch. That was what he desired for The Red Door, but he said it was difficult to pull off and be successful.
There were staffing challenges too. He changed chefs right before the pandemic after disagreements over the menu. After the pandemic, his staff eventually turned into high school and college students, who he said were great at their job, but weren’t the experienced servers who could anticipate wines to pair with meals that one would expect at a fine dining establishment.
“It’s hard to retain employees. The first two years were our best as far as money goes,” DeAngelis said.
The Red Door was able to survive the pandemic through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program and a Small Business Association loan. He closed in March 2020, but then reopened two months later on Cinco de Mayo, serving tacos and tequila on the porch.
With assisting his aging parents and dealing with other health challenges in his family, he said he has not able to be at the restaurant like an owner should.
“The short answer is it was time. We did what we could do in there,” DeAngelis said. “I can’t be there. I knew I had to make a change. The longer you wait, the more the restaurant suffers.”
DeAngelis has a background as a wine brand creator and buyer and had previously run a fine dining restaurant for six years in the late eighties in Melbourne, called Kiplings.
He came to Lakeland in 2000 because his wife got a job working for Publix in its corporate office. He opened The Red Door and Wine Market in 2009, originally in the space where Patio 850 is located at 850 S. Tennessee Ave.
“Back in 2009, we were the only place in Polk county where you could get craft beer,” DeAngelis recalled, adding that Budlight was not on the menu.
He eventually added charcuterie and pizza to the menu, and then started hosting lots of events. The events and take home dinners called “The Hoodie” became so popular he decided to offer more food. He eventually moved The Red Door to its current location, 733 E. Palmetto Street in January 2013.
By Wednesday, the building had been stripped of its signage and a folding sign on the patio said “Closed.”
DeAngelis is unsure what he’ll do next. He doesn’t want to open another restaurant but is interested in restaurant consulting or returning to the beverage industry.
As for what will happen to The Red Door, he said the new owners have a “cool concept that he thinks will be great.” He wouldn’t disclose who the new owners were or go into detail about the concept, but did mention they asked for his staff’s contact information.
“Lakeland loves new things so they’ll be busy,” DeAngelis said. “I’ll let them tell their story.”
The closure of the Red Door isn’t the only recent change to the local fine dining scene. Patio 850, founded by Patrick Rene Schaefer – DeAngelis’ former employee and partner at La Porta Rossa – recently closed after Schaefer’s death last month. However, it is expected to reopen soon as The Patio-Lakeland.
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