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Firefly closes its Henderson restaurant

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Henderson’s Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar on Eastern Avenue.
Photo: Sam Morris

Embattled local restaurant Firefly closed its Anthem-area location today, citing inconsistent business at the Henderson store and a desire to focus on operations at its other restaurants.

Firefly chef and owner John Simmons said the restaurant at 11261 South Eastern Avenue, opened in 2012, has been barely breaking even for the last year. He added that he hopes to absorb the restaurant’s employees into his other locations.

The closure comes weeks after a routine inspection by the Southern Nevada Health District resulted in 38 demerits and a C grade for the Eastern Avenue restaurant on March 31. Firefly fired three employees as a result of the inspection, and a re-inspection on April 4 yielded 8 demerits and brought the grade back up to an A.

While Simmons said the closure wasn’t a direct result of the inspection, he acknowledged the restaurant probably wouldn’t have survived another significant loss in business.

Firefly has been working to overcome the fallout from a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of customers and closed its original location on Paradise Road last April. According to the health district’s final report on that incident, released in January, at least 336 people from 29 states and two foreign countries were affected. After a long and complicated investigation, the origin of the salmonella bacteria could not be determined, but officials believe the outbreak was caused by cross contamination in the restaurant’s kitchen.

Firefly Tapas Kitchen and Bar's new location, 3824 Paradise Road, is seen on opening day, Friday, May 24, 2013.

Simmons elected not to re-open Firefly at that location, where it debuted in 2003, because he was already planning to move the restaurant to a larger space nearby at 3824 Paradise Road. The new Firefly on Paradise opened May 24.

Last year’s outbreak was one of the biggest cases of food-borne illness in Las Vegas history, and it became one of the most highly publicized stories in Las Vegas last year. Simmons said earlier this month that at its worst point, business at all Firefly restaurants was down 80 percent, and the company was forced to lay off 20 percent of its staff.

Firefly also faced lawsuits from victims of the outbreak. The restaurant has settled with 310 plaintiffs, each receiving a payment for medical bills, missed work and other expenses. The restaurant’s $3 million liability insurance policy covered the settlement payments.

In the wake of the outbreak, Firefly made significant changes to its procedures and took measures to go beyond the requirements placed upon its operations by the health district. The company purchased new, upgraded kitchen equipment; hired food safety expert Tim Moulson as a consultant; certified all managers and chefs through ServSafe, a food safety training course developed by the National Restaurant Association; and certified the company’s director of operations, Dave Bowers, as a ServSafe instructor and proctor. A hazard analysis and critical points program was installed to better monitor the food at every point at which bacterial contamination could occur.

A full dining room is seen at Firefly in Henderson on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

A full dining room is seen at Firefly in Henderson on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

In recent months, Simmons says, business had been improving, though the new Paradise Road location and the Summerlin-area outpost on West Sahara Avenue (opened in 2010) have been more successful than the Henderson restaurant. Recently, Firefly won the award for favorite tapas restaurant in the Review-Journal’s annual Best of Las Vegas readers’ poll.

Despite today’s closure, Simmons and his partners still operate three local restaurants. Just last week, they opened a new Mexican eatery, Tacos & Beer, at the site of the original Firefly at 3900 Paradise Road.

Tags: Dining, Business
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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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