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Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

Blackbird closes suddenly and mysteriously, informs employees via email

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 - 11:05 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 - 2:53 pm

For a place that burst onto the dining scene in 2012 with creative cooking served in a stylish urban setting, Blackbird Kitchen and Bar on 1000 block of Ninth Street shut its doors unceremoniously Monday. The owners told shocked employees in an email.

Carina Lampkin, the colorful co-owner and chef, who was often distracted from her restaurant duties by pursuing efforts to improve Sacramento’s downtown area, did not respond to text messages Monday night and early Tuesday. Her voice-mail box is full.

For a brief time Monday, an announcement of the closure was on Blackbird’s Facebook page but was later removed, though comments from baffled fans remained.

Blackbird participated in the gala dinner Sunday on the Tower Bridge, serving appetizers. Photos of the Tower Bridge were loaded onto the restaurant’s Facebook page and there were no indications that anything was awry. In fact, at least one order for food products was placed over the weekend.

Lampkin recently lost her talented executive chef, Kevin O’Connor, who left the restaurant after about a year in the kitchen to travel, retool and host private dinners through his popular Tree House series. Blackbird was best known for its sophisticated seafood dishes and raw bar.

“This is a day of mourning,” O’Connor said early Tuesday, noting there were issues with management style and questions about who, if anyone, was running the restaurant. “I knew there were a lot of problems, but money wasn’t really an issue."

O’Connor said he was disappointed that the employees were informed in an email and not in person.

“I definitely would have done more than just an email,” he said. “Knowing Blackbird, there’s not really a definitive manager. That’s part of the reason why I left. That email is pretty tough.”

Chloe Henry, one of the top servers in the city, said she and fellow employees were stunned by the announcement.

“I just feel it’s a shame,” Henry said. “The restaurant had something that was really different in Sacramento. The crew (Lampkin) had gotten together was really fine-tuned. It was like an all-star cast. We had the schedule made and everything was ready to go, and instead of calling us in, we got a simple mass email telling us the restaurant was closed and without giving a reason.”

Henry and O’Connor said employees were going to meet tonight and talk about what happened and what’s next. O’Connor suggested he might do a series of “pop-up dinners” with the employees for the next month.

Henry was still coming to grips with the news as she headed to yoga Tuesday morning.

“To do a great job, you have to believe in the product. You have to believe in the place where you work. It’s your home. It’s your family. We’re all at a loss,” she said.

Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob

Read more articles by Blair Anthony Robertson

About Appetizers

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's Food & Wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farm workers in Lodi. Chris also judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. His profile of a former gangbanger-turned-pastry-chef was included in Da Capo's "Best Food Writing 2012."

Read his Wine Buzz columns here
(916) 321-1253
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni writes about casual lunchtime restaurants in The Sacramento Bee's weekly "Counter Culture" column. He covers a broad range of topics, including food, travel, books and authors. In addition to writing the weekly column "Between the Lines," he oversees the Sacramento Bee Book Club, in which well-known authors give free presentations to the public.

Read his Counter Culture reviews here
(916) 321-1128
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Sacramento Bee's food critic.

Read his restaurant reviews here
(916) 321-1099
Twitter: @Blarob

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