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Blackbird Kitchen and Bar

Blackbird Kitchen & Bar closed its doors Monday.

Update: Why Blackbird closed so suddenly

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 - 2:29 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 - 2:53 pm

I just got off the phone with John Thacker, a partner in Blackbird Kitchen & Bar and stepfather of chef/co-owner Carina Lampkin.

The restaurant on 1000 block of Ninth Street shut its doors Monday, and the owners told shocked employees in an email.

Thacker read the previous post, in which I noted that Lampkin could not be contacted, and immediately said he would comment extensively.

Blackbird was a potentially good restaurant, with an artistic and quirky side that sometimes led to inconsistency and poor hiring decisions. Lampkin, for instance, once told me early on that she was only going to hire artists as servers, prompting me to wonder, “Why? Customers want polished, knowledgeable servers, not people with good brushstroke technique.”

Thacker told me the quirky/creative/high-end image was something Blackbird could never really escape.

“We appeared a little too high-end and boutique-y and quirky at the beginning, and that it was a costly meal we put on the plate,” he said. “At the beginning, it was my hope that the bar could support the kitchen. My fear was that Sacramento would not support what was coming out of the kitchen at this time in that location. I qualify that statement in that way because I absolutely feel that downtown is not a lost cause.”

Thacker noted that Lampkin suffered a near-fatal car accident in 2006 when she was struck by an uninsured motorist. She received a “substantial settlement” but had serious physical issues that persisted.

“This venture originated with the notion that because Carina has a permanent disability, she’s never going to be physically 100 percent,” Thacker said. “She trained and had a passion for an occupation that is physically demanding. In order for her to continue in this industry, where she clearly had a talent and a passion, it was not feasible or practical to work as a line chef. The idea was that she had some money and we were willing to put up some money so she could have some flexibility with her work.”

The colorful Lampkin responded to my text message by writing, “Let them know Lampkin was happy with the outcry of support. Was happy to serve Sacramento. Get back to you soon.”

Asked about the email to employees, which some have characterized as hurtful, Thacker said he “agonized” over how best to get the word out.

“The decision was up to the last minute. People were going to be showing up for work in 12 hours, and how do we make sure they do not show up?” he said.

Referring to the top employees at the restaurant, Thacker said he was not worried they would be out of work for long, given their skill set.

“Knowing that most of the employees won’t have much trouble finding work made this a little easier,” he 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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