Mint and Liberty never found its niche with Sonoma diners

Attempt to bring ‘modern diner’ concept to Sonoma struggled from the start.|

James Hahn, owner of Mint & Liberty, announced last ? Saturday that his “modern diner” will be closing after brunch on Sunday, Feb. 10.

The restaurant in Maxwell Village shopping center just opened last Nov. 7 after a well-organized remodel.

Hahn began his press release announcement of the closure with, “We are incredibly sad, we are shutting the doors at the Mint and Liberty. (It is) an extremely tough decision… We have put our heart and soul into creating this restaurant because we believed that it could be the type of neighborhood place that you would want to come to again and again in Sonoma.”

Hahn also said in the release that if the remaining staff find other jobs quickly, that he and partners Mila Chanamé, Aaron Mills and Melissa Cameron might have to close sooner.

The Hahn team, with the help of Kevin Lely and others, transformed what had formerly been the Breakaway Cafe from a western look featuring paintings by Dennis Ziemienski to a bright light blue and white with a few photos of Hahn’s forbearers as décor. They also added several cozy booths in the bar area, with views in and out of the restaurant.

The same group also owns the Sunflower Caffé on First Street West in Sonoma, a stand-in-line café with a sumptuous garden behind the historic adobe.

A week before the closure announcement, Hahn appealed to his circle of friends and business acquaintances for investment, writing by email, “We (are) seeking working capital. We need help fast. If we can rally an investor pool it could work.

“We are willing to eat humble pie and make any changes needed to right this ship. We could reformat and be as much of a diner as need be.”

Meanwhile Mint and Liberty tried offering a senior discount of 10 percent on Mondays, and free food for kids on Tuesdays. But in other parts of the menu – $16 cocktails and initially a $16 bacon and eggs – prices were more expensive than other local restaurants.

Hahn and partners, along with chef Michael Siegel, tried to introduce a variety of new food concepts to Sonoma, which didn’t seem to take hold in the restaurant that started out as a Lyons and then was home for many years to the Breakaway Café.

Hahn emailed the Index-Tribune late Saturday afternoon that the restaurant business is for sale for $595,000 including a Type 47 liquor license, a remodeled kitchen, restrooms, and new ADA ramps. If you are interested, call Jeff Sacher at 526-1050.

Hahn and co-owners said they “will do our best to honor any outstanding gift cards that have been purchased, and we will honor these at the Sunflower Caffé.”

He also emphasized: “Our main goal is to find homes for all of our staff,” meaning dignified restaurant work. Given the shortage of skilled restaurant workers, most should find employment fairly easily. Of course that can depend on where they live and how far they commute. Back to the Sunflower we go.

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