Hawk’s Tavern Is Closed for Good, Owners Looking for New Tenant

Much-ballyhooed restaurant on Miller Ave. was simply losing too much money, one of its partners says.

Less than a year after it opened with a concept and menu developed by local celebrity chef Tyler Florence, Hawk’s Tavern is no more.

The restaurant at 507 Miller Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Dish closed on Nov. 6 in an abrupt move by its partners, according to Rick Ronald, who was brought in last December to run Hawk’s Tavern and co-owns the building with Mike House. Ronald said the partners planned to give the restaurant until the end of the year to turn things around, then moved that deadline to the end of November and finally made the call to pull the plug at the close of business on Election Day.

“It was just pure economics,” Ronald said. “We were just losing so much money every week that it looked like we were not going to be able to turn it around. We were going to have to put a lot more money into it. It just wasn’t in the cards.”

Hawk’s Tavern made its much-publicized debut in December 2011, 18 months after Dish had opened in the same streetfront space in the Tamalpais Commons development. Bungalow 44 and Buckeye Roadhouse restaurateur Peter Schumacher, who was both an investor in and the manager of Dish, did not stay on in a management role with Hawk’s Tavern.

Instead, House and Ronald took the reins, handing over the keys to Florence to develop a concept and menu of “seasonally inspired pub fare.” Florence’s consulting deal with Hawk’s Tavern ended in June.

Although the restaurant went through a number of executive chefs in its less than one year of existence, Ronald said food was never the problem. The menu morphed a few times, from small plate-dominated selections to more traditional fare. But poor service prevented enough returning customers, Ronald said, and also they weren’t turning over tables quickly enough and weren’t serving customers with young children fast enough.

But the biggest driver of the closure, he said, was never gaining enough control over their high costs.

“There are a lot of reasons but quite honestly the biggest one was poor management on our part,” he said. “We always struggled with service. The last few weeks, the food was the best it’s been.”

Ronald said he and House are hoping to land a third party to bring a restaurant into the space as a tenant. They’re listening to ideas now but have no timetable for getting a new restaurant open.

Ronald said one of the partners’ early plans were to take advantage of the space’s location and push a strong takeout food component.

“But we wanted to make sure we have the operations inside the four walls down first, and it just never got to that point,” he said.

The 411: Hawk’s Tavern was located at 507 Miller Avenue. Ronald said there are a number of outstanding gift certificates to the restaurant and that he intends to reimburse people for them. If you have an unredeemed gift card to Hawk’s Tavern, email jimw@patch.com and we can connect you to Ronald.

Elizabeth Brown November 12, 2012 at 03:23 PM
We liked Hawk's Tavern - sad to see it go! How about something like Sol Food in San Rafael?
Jack November 12, 2012 at 03:40 PM
The food, service and atmosphere here were fine. There were three obvious problems though, the first of which was location... If Hawk's Tavern had opened downtown, it'd be humming. Reveals the developer driven Miller Avenue plan as the house of cards it is (construction defects litigation coming soon). Commuter burritos and pizza for school kids is the sweet spot on this strip.
karn November 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM
We need a Peets coffee there. no good coffee on miller
Mill Valley Neighbor November 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The location is just subpar, there is no parking. I know they added a valet but that did nothing to help with issue at hand. I want to be able to walk or pull up and have dinner with the family, not think about parking the car 2 miles away of trusting the valet not to burn up my clutch. Add to that this section of Miller is not that walkable, it’s a just a bad location of a restaurant maybe a hair salon, or a dry cleaner.
Megan November 12, 2012 at 05:24 PM
I don't eat out, so I don't have feelings one way or the other about this place closing, but I do have to say that the whiney feedback from people too lazy to WALK a bit surprises me. Wow, people! They're called FEET! They move us around from place to place, they're marvelous! You should try them. And yet another coffee shop??? Starbucks is on the same block!
Rico November 12, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Mixed use developments have proved to be a failure all over the bay area, especially the housing units above the businesses. In fact, this has been going on since before the Tamalpais Commons project was conceived. And then the economy tanked. Two classic examples in Marin of the failure and lack of interest of living in shared wall housing units built on busy streets above businesses are the Millworks in Novato and the Tamalpais Commons, actually they are the only 2 of such projects in Marin. In both of those projects, the plan was to sell condos above businesses, and in both cases, nobody wanted to take out a loan to live in those boxes. And both projects had to "apartmentize" the condo projects. There are other examples all over the greater bay area. It is a case of some developers not actually thinking things through, and not understanding or considering that it is people that would have to live in locations that were always business districts, ie:poor planning and lack of demographic research. Maybe some wealthy investor will try and set up another restaurant for another year at the Commons, then again, maybe not.
karen stromfeld November 12, 2012 at 05:47 PM
I'm sure like all the other tenants in that part of the "Miller Strip", they will focus on the proximity of Tam High and the lunch crowd...These kids have cash to spend!
Rico November 12, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Actually, some new projects like this have been advertised recently down in Santa Clara and San Jose. That is where all these new technology jobs are being created by Google and Facebook. Perhaps these projects will work out fine in areas where there is emerging job growth, higher salaries, higher density and more need for condos, but I don't think Marin is the place. I hope that we won't see any more of these types of projects in Mill Valley.
Bernard Meisler November 12, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Good riddance. Mill Valley is rife with these kinds of restaurants - fancy atmosphere, high prices, mediocre food and lousy service - and I'm glad to see Hawk's Tavern go.
C Chang November 12, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Time to call in Gordon Ramsey.
Susan November 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I'm sorry Hawk's Tavern closed. It was a lovely place with a very kind staff. I especially appreciated Chris and Kendra. They always accommodated our requests for those lovely back booths. I enjoyed their weekly cask ale. And the pretzel bread was our daughter's favorite. Good luck to all of you who were affected by this closing. Your restaurant and team will be missed by this local.
Bernard Meisler November 12, 2012 at 07:10 PM
They might have done better if they weren't trying to sell these condos - which are really 2 beds with an office, NOT 3 bedrooms - for $1.2 million a couple of years ago...not to mention that they were poorly built with 2nd-rate construction materials. They could sell tons of them, I bet, if they were priced properly - more like $500k.
james thomas November 12, 2012 at 07:12 PM
It was the restauraunt that went out of business, not the lofts upstsirs. Apparently they were snapped up quickly. The condo's in the back had more trouble, but I don't think that was the fault of mix use, but more because the architecture was so uninspired. Mill Valley has a history of mix use, downtown especially, and I haven't seen that pattern as unsucessful. Restaurants are a tough business...
Megan November 12, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I thought the same thing! Bring in Gordo!
Uncle Fishbits November 13, 2012 at 02:49 AM
It's less about Hawk's Tavern, and more about Florence Tyler. an SF spot just shuttered, and I just heard his Napa restaurant / store just shuttered as well. Hard times for the big chef, methinks.
Kathy November 13, 2012 at 03:54 AM
How about a really good, casual, affordable BBQ place?! If we could only convince locals Ken and Christina Flach to relocate their fabulous Best Lil' Pork House from SR to MV... probably too soon to open a 2nd location! ;-)
Karen November 13, 2012 at 04:56 AM
Sol Food, BBQ, something more affordable that would make for good take-out and attract the high school crowd at lunch time. After the failure of 2 higher end restaurants, I think it's time to focus on a more affordable, family friendly, higher volume restaurant. If the food is good enough and unique to the area, people won't mind if they have to walk have a block or so to park.
Annie November 13, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Look at the success, day and night, of the other restaurants in this fun and lively area of Miller Ave. And they are not just for students for lunch. I feel the answer is Italian food, reasonably priced, profitable for owners, and encouraging to the families of MV, the heart throb of our community. The other Italian restaurants in MV are great, but cater to adults. Personally, we found the employees were very nice, however, service was always a challenge. In fact, it was their downfall. We gave up, long ago and knew this restaurant was poorly managed and would not make it. It was a ship without a captain. The food was very so so and most friends agree. This is not a surprise at all.
Bud Wiesser November 13, 2012 at 05:36 AM
As I've mentioned before: small portions (I'm sorry, "small plates") of good but nothing-special food @full prices won't cut it. We MV people may be Rich but we ain't Stupid. When my server had to preface the menu w/an apology along the lines of "I'm sorry the entrees are small because..." I know it wouldn't last long. And nevermind the excuses of service (it was fine), parking (not a problem w/the longtimer downtown) -- it ultimately broils down to The Food. And competition: TamalPie and even Grillys had better food at better price points. @KathyT - "affordable BBQ" an oxymoron? Yeah this food of the people always seems to be on the higher end, even in the 'hood. $20 for Ken Flach's delicious brisket sandwich and a soda still costs me $20...but agree Sol Food would dominate at that spot. But oh wait -- the rent might not be the same as it is on 3rd St...!
Lippy November 13, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Great idea, Elizabeth!
CKC CKC November 14, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I would love to see another restaurant enter the space. I think Hawk's Tavern failed because of mediocre veering on bad food, bad small plates concept at full plate prices and poor service. My son and I visited just after Halloween and the food was edible, but nothing I would return for and the service was terrible....
Lisa B November 14, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I'm so sad to see Hawk's Tavern close. I ate there many times and for the most part, the food was very good. Loved the atmosphere, the prices were reasonable and the service was always excellent - I especially liked Kendra and am sorry she and the other employees are out of work. I find it laughable that an early commenter said parking was too difficult. If I can't walk one block (yes, that's the farthest I've ever had to walk after parking to eat there), just put me out of my misery now.
Heather November 14, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I'm not surprised to hear this. My family and I dined there three times over the summer and the service was intolerably slow (one night we waited well over an hour for burgers, and I had to leave with my son before the food even came to get him to a birthday party). After the third time my husband said he would never go back, even though we have friends among the investors. It's too bad, because the atmosphere was lovely and the food was good. It just goes to show the importance of management fundamentals.
Eliza Dolittle November 15, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I'd love to know about the litigation, as a tenant in the condos
Hannah November 16, 2012 at 11:06 PM
More diversity in MV please!!!!! A great hip Japanese place like Sushi Ran or Vietnamese like Slanted Door. Charles Phan, step up!
Bernard Meisler November 16, 2012 at 11:50 PM
I agree with Hannah about the diversity, but I can live without the "hip" - for that I'll go to the city. What would be GREAT would be good, solid, non-expensive food - a good Chinese restaurant would be great. We've got some of the best "Chinese" food in the world over the bridge, yet the Chinese restaurants in Marin are of about the same quality as you'd find in Binghamton, NY, or wherever. What's up with that?
Rico November 17, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Eliza,The Tamalpais Commons was originally conceived to be a condo project, but nobody want to take out a 30 year loan to pay rent on a box sharing walls and floors with businesses on a noisy four lane main artery near a high school (also noisy). What you are living in is an apartment if you are a tenant at the the Commons. They are essentially the same thing, you will never own the building or the grounds. The only difference is that you will not be stuck in a 30 year loan agreement to be a tenant in a condo, that is a good thing that you should be very thankful for !
Christopher Caproni November 18, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Bring back Jennie Low's!.....however that alone would not do well at this site. MV sidewalks roll-up by 9pm. The following elements work well in our community: -Casual -Family friendly -Indoor and out door dining option(s) -Firepit (Cantina style) -Comfy seating options -Party rooms (more) -Big screen TV and communal table(s) ("Dish" had one during their launch and the World Cup was on @ 6am with plenty of early customers sitting and going) -Take out "options" for Break-fast, lunch and dinner are the ticket. Ready made sandwiches (like Star Bucks @ SFO and financial district); breakfast burritos like Alpine Meadows breezeway; Chipotle Sunrise Wraps like Cafe del Sol; Za Slices to go). Tam HS students need more meal options with less lines and reasonable prices, HOWEVER school is only in session 9 months a year, M-F so weekends, nights and summers need to be considered. Food trucks are EVERYWHERE BUT Mill Valley. I see that "2nd Breakfast" owner is closing the bricks and mortar in order to launch a food truck. Youth sports leagues are a HUGE underserved market. Why not "take it to the streets, fields and courts" of Mill Valley during peak seasons? Oh, and while we are at it what about a business loyalty program (managed by the Chamber of Commerce) tied to using a local shuttle service to encourage and reward more biking and walking during PEAK traffic times? Are the MV2040 General Plan planning committees taking these ideas into account?
Logan Link November 19, 2012 at 02:57 AM
A La Boulange would be perfect! Coffee in the morning, a spinach croissant at lunch, a baguette on the way home from work ... oh, and macarons! Otherwise, a Rustic Bakery or Boudins would amazing. Karen & Bud ... Love Sol Food, but I heard a rumor that they're opening where Second Breakfast was, near Doggie Styles & Image Flow! : )
Scott November 24, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Somebody bring back the "Bug". Mudbugs, that is. Service was so-so, but the Cajun creole food was outstanding. Mill valley/Marin has too many Italian/meatloaf/asian joints already. America has great ethnic food - Cajun, tex mex, new England (Yankee pier is pretty good), Carolina low country BBQ, etc. But Marin offers none of that. Just boring meatloaf, pasta, chops, and French fries. boring!


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