A downtown Camas restaurant that served New Orleans-inspired cuisine has closed more than a month before its lease was scheduled to end.
Miss Nola’s Cafe, owned by Tim and Melissa McCusker, at 401 N.E. Fourth Ave., was open for its last dinner service Friday, Sept. 1.
The McCuskers’ lease was scheduled to end Oct. 31, but they wanted to close Miss Nola’s at the end of September to focus on the expansion of their other restaurant, Feast 316, and spend more time with their three children, ages 7, 10 and 12.
Melissa McCusker said she and Tim told their landlords, Dave and Terri Sauer, in August they were not planning to renew their lease.
“If it helps you, we could leave at the end of September,” Melissa recalled saying to the Sauers, owners of the Camas Hotel building.
“It would be an opportunity to get someone else in there before Christmas,” Melissa said.
Miss Nola’s Cafe is located in part of the Camas Hotel building.
Melissa said the landlords initially wanted Miss Nola’s to remain in the space through October, but they agreed that the McCuskers could leave at the end of September.
“After Labor Day we decided if Miss Nola’s was closed, it would give the Camas Hotel time to get another tenant in by the holidays,” Melissa said.
She realizes it was short notice to close Miss Nola’s.
“It was not our plan,” Melissa said. “We figured the best thing for our sanity was to go ahead and close it.”
Terri Sauer said she and Dave agreed to an early release of the lease agreement, without penalty, after they saw that Miss Nola’s Cafe was closed on Labor Day weekend.
“We thought they wanted to keep the business open through September or at least some portion of September,” Terri said. “We didn’t realize they would close early September.”
Terri said the former Miss Nola’s space, featuring a 1,220 square foot restaurant and kitchen, will definitely be a bistro “of some sort.”
“We are just not sure what kind yet,” she said. “We do have some interested parties and are very excited about the possibilities.”
In addition to the restaurant and kitchen space, there is basement storage.
The McCuskers’ children did their homework, played with toys and watched TV in the basement, Tim recalled.
“The kids grew up downstairs,” he said.
The McCuskers opened Miss Nola’s Cafe in October 2015. They had previously owned Harvest for two years, at the same location.
Feast 316 opened Dec. 31, 2014, at 316 N.E. Dallas St.
“It is a lot of hard work, running two busy restaurants,” Tim McCusker said. “Our children keep saying ‘when are you coming home?'”
The McCuskers still need to clean the former Miss Nola’s space and remove some items before moving some of them into a storage unit.
An auction, featuring plates, glasses and stoves, will be held Friday, Sept. 15, and Saturday, Sept. 16, at the former Miss Nola’s site. The timeline of the sale was not available, prior to press deadlines.
The closure of Miss Nola’s is not related to a cooking oil spill that occurred May 19.
A Washington State Department of Ecology report said an Oregon Oils, Inc. employee was removing a fryer grease container from the restaurant.
“The driver filled his vacuum truck tank with 100-gallons of grease still left in the container,” the report stated. “He unfortunately decided to load the container into the back of his flat-bed truck to transport it back to Portland, Oregon, when it tipped over off of the lift-gate spilling 95 gallons to pavement and a catch basin.”
Camas-Washougal firefighters, Camas police and other first responders arrived at the scene, and the City of Camas contracted with Cowlitz Clean Sweep for cleanup services.
Meanwhile, the expansion at Feast 316 includes renovations and remodeling of the former Brown & Brown Insurance space, which will add 50 seats to the dining capacity.
The McCuskers hope to open the second dining room Friday, Sept. 22.
Feast 316 has 17 employees, including five that worked at Nola’s. Melissa said a sixth Miss Nola’s employee was recently laid off, for reasons not related to the closure of the restaurant.
In addition to owning and operating Feast 316, the McCuskers will continue to provide catering services and participate in events that raise money for various organizations including the Camas Educational Foundation, Clark County Food Bank and “Office Moms & Dads,” which serves foster children. Tim will continue to provide restaurant consulting services.
“We are definitely here to stay in the downtown Camas corridor,” the McCuskers’ letter stated on the front of the former Miss Nola’s space.