Tacoma’s Maxwell’s Speakeasy and Lounge has a new owner. The purchase of the St. Helens neighborhood eatery closed this afternoon. New owner Beti Tarantino is expecting to meet with staff members today to discuss the transition.
Tarantino previously was the owner of downtown Puyallup’s Comfort Food Cafe, which she purchased in 2011. Tarantino closed that restaurant in late 2013 with the intention of opening an upscale restaurant called BAR Steaks and Spirits in downtown Puyallup, but that deal fell through and the restaurant never opened. Tarantino went looking for another restaurant to purchase last year.
Maxwell’s was ideal for what she wanted — a turnkey restaurant with an established clientele and a staff that she intends to keep, including executive chef Hudson Slater.
Said Tarantino in a phone interview last week, “I love Hudson’s attention to detail. His platings are gorgeous. I’m so excited to work with him.” The only staffing change in the interim will be an addition, said Tarantino. Rusty White will join Maxwell’s as bar manager, a newly created position.
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Tarantino’s role will be to oversee the daily operations of the restaurant.
Slater said today he is looking forward to staying on as chef. “I’m excited about this,” he said by phone. Slater has been a longtime employee and a chef at the restaurant. He started working at Maxwell’s under Matt Colony, who was the restaurant’s first chef when Maxwell’s opened in April 2008. Slater followed Colony briefly to a restaurant in Poulsbo, but returned just ahead of the restaurant’s purchase by Steve Anderson in 2011. Slater was promoted to executive chef under Anderson. “I enjoyed my time working with Steve and now I’m excited to start the next chapter,” he said.
“The concept is exactly what I wanted, the things we can do with that building are amazing,” said Tarantino. She said she has no significant changes planned for the concept or food, although she plans a few changes that will make the restaurant more appealing to diners. Small additions will include improving the outdoor lighting, adding outdoor seating and lunch service. Tarantino is currently researching a valet parking program. She also has plans for the upstairs space for catering and private events.
The Comfort Food Cafe was Tarantino’s first restaurant. She previously worked in sales before purchasing that restaurant in 2011. She intends to build Maxwell’s as a family-run business she can hand off down the road to her son and daughter-in-law.
Here’s a quick timeline of the history of Maxwell’s:
April 2008: Maxwell’s opened with Troy Christian and Sean Quinn at the helm. Matt Colony served as executive chef and later would become the restaurant’s general manager.
April 2011: Executive chef and general manager Matt Colony departed the restaurant. Vivian Irish took over for a short time as chef. She left in November 2011.
August 2011: Steve Anderson purchased Maxwell’s and hired Leslie Westphal as executive chef. Westphal was replaced by Hudson Slater, who previously had been a chef at the restaurant, starting under Matt Colony, who Slater considers a mentor.