Imperial Dragon, the Chinese restaurant on Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue, closed Dec. 30. It was the end of a long era by restaurant standards.
A slim field of restaurants hit the quarter-century mark under a single owner.
In 1993, the Luu family took over the restaurant space at Sixth Avenue and South Hawthorne Street on the Tacoma Narrows end of the business district.
The building at 6805 Sixth Ave. was impressively sized at 10,000 square feet with an attached lounge and enormous parking lot.
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The size of the lot made the space appealing to developers who bought the building, said Dustin Luu, who ran the restaurant with his sister My Luu and her husband, Luan Nguyen.
A apartment-retail development is planned for the site. Preliminary plans submitted to the city call for 113 apartments and 9,620 square feet of ground-floor retail space and underground parking.
Imperial Dragon’s menu offered the greatest hits of Chinese-American cuisine. The restaurant also focused on consistently friendly customer service, said Luu. The restaurant frequently hosted large parties and banquets.
Before his family took over the space and opened its restaurant, the building held the Chinese restaurant Empress Garden, Luu said.
However, he said, longtime Tacomans might be more familiar with the restaurant that originally operated there: The Towers Restaurant, an impressive entertainment venue and restaurant built in 1946.
The restaurant and its Rainbow Room were popular destinations for banquets, celebrations and live music.
Luu knew for a month the closure was coming, but hoped until last week that something would happen to save his restaurant.
This week, he’s looking ahead. The family has 30 days to clear the space.
He and My intend to take vacations with their families following the closure.
“I told my kids, Daddy will have more time with you,” Luu said. As for that vacation destination, “I have no idea,” Luu said with a laugh in a telephone conversation.
Just then, he was interrupted by a customer walking through the restaurant’s front door and asking why they were closing.
“A lot of people are calling, too, and I don’t know. I’m feeling so bad,” Luu said after returning to the phone.
“A lot of people have stopped by. They don’t want us to leave. Some people had their weddings here. Their children’s graduation parties. Their kids wanted to know, ‘Where do we go now?’ I just say, “I’m sorry.’ ”
He said he’ll be busy on the phone helping find new locations for those who booked the restaurant for banquets. He’s also been in contact with auction companies to sell some equipment.
The Luu family won’t rule out relocating the restaurant, but they have no immediate leads on a new space.
The longtime chef, who has been there since they opened, has said he will retire and other staffers have said they will take some time off before looking for new jobs. Luu said some employees are looking for work.
The Luu family isn’t the only ones in limbo after the displacement of a favorite Chinese-American restaurant. Jade Palace in University Place closed last year to make way for a Japanese steakhouse that expects to open in February.