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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Don Pablos Closes on Newport's Riverboat Row

Don Pablos, which first opened in 1995 on Riverboat Row in Newport, closed earlier this month. 
A longtime tenant on Newport's riverfront has closed abruptly after spending decades in the same location.

Don Pablos Mexican Restaurant at 401 Riverboat Row was shut down after a record rainfall led to a fire, that forced ownership into a decision to close the restaurant.

On July 28, a record amount of rainfall fell in the early morning hours across the region causing flash floods, road closures and downed trees. Some rain gauges in northern Kentucky collected more than four inches of rainwater, according to the National Weather Service.

A company employee said that the restaurant had a leak during that heavy rainfall, which caused an electrical fire when the neon sign on the back patio facing the Ohio River went into flames.There was significant fire damage on the inside of the building, which was the major factor for the ownership group deciding to close the restaurant.

Newport City Manager, Tom Fromme, said that he wasn't sure what the restaurant's fate would be.

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"At this point we are not sure if they will remain open or not. They are going to contact
us with their plans at some point in the near future," said Fromme.

But, according to Don Pablos national website, the Newport site is permanently closed.

A screen grab from Don Pablos website says the restaurant is closed for good.  

The restaurant sits on leased land from the city of Newport, which is an 11.85 Acre strip along the river.  An ownership group, DFR Inc, has owned the building since its construction. That group started the chain of Tex-Mex restaurants in 1995, starting them in Texas before eventually expanding in the midwest.

An employee told FTM that the ownership group who owns the building may have some plans for another concept.

"It’s possible you’ll see something else pop up," they said.

Southgate resident, Laura Clifton, said that she and her husband used to frequent the location when they first started dating in 2005 and were sad when they got an email from Don Pablos, telling them the location would be closing.

"During a recent visit, there were several tubs all over the main dining room floor, catching water from the roof," she said. "I am not surprised they decided to close their doors."

The building on Riverboat Row started construction in 1994 and finished in 1995.  The early assessments on that building was $564,000.  In 1997 it was reassessed to  $1,175,000.

Large commercial properties get their building permits from the state, so the only permit for improvements the building has on file in Campbell County is one in 2000 for $60,000 to add an outside bar and storage.  It is currently assessed at $1,490,000.

In 2013 the restaurant was temporarily closed after a building inspection led to concern for the safety of customers and employees. A routine building inspection on April 25 of that year found issues with the structural integrity of one corner of the restaurant's deck, specifically the condition of a steel beam.

Then in 2015, a portion of Riverboat Row in front of the restaurant closed on February 9. The closure allowed for road improvement work by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on a culvert extension project and is still under construction.

The Don Pablos franchise has since been bought by multiple restaurant operators, most recently by San Antonio-based Food Management Partners. FMP is also a franchise operator of Buffalo Wild Wings.

There is still one Don Pablos locally, which is located at Rookwood Commons and Pavilion at 2692 Madison Road in Cincinnati.

UPDATE (12:30 p.m. 8-23): Newport City Manager Tom Fromme confirms Don Pablos permanent closure. 


  1. Soo. There are two riverfront facing restaurants on the levee closed and now a third. Sounds fish.

    1. What are the other two you're referencing?

    2. who's the other two? not down that area much to notice.

    3. Claddah and what was Jefferson Hall are wgat they were ralking about I assume.

  2. The restaurant went down hill the last few years, I quit going because of the horrible service and the quality of the food deteriorated.

  3. yeah I took a tour of it Saturday night with the clean out crew that was removing all the interior. that's not the only reason it got closed. on top of having mice and mold everywhere the smell was atrocious there were even holes in the ceiling that hadn't been fixed in years.

  4. Who the heck still went to this place? Rio Grande destroys it

  5. This place was utterly filthy and the food beyond bad … for at least the last ten years. Can't believe it took this long!

  6. El jenete destroys all. Taylor mill

  7. What used to be Jefferson Hall then River Rock closed a long time ago and has sat empty. Same thing with Claddaugh. Those may be the other two referenced earlier. I don't know how Chart House stays open, that road construction has dragged out forever.

  8. La Mexicana on Monmouth. Truly authentic and blows Rio Grande out of the water.

  9. Anonymous you were one of the cleaning crew last Saturday? How long have you worked for the Don?

  10. Did they give you a severance package or a job at one of their other locations?

  11. As someone who worked there, I can say it should have definitely closed years ago.

  12. And Cancun destroys Rio Grande ...