BARSTOW • Another one-time mom and pop shop has become an empty storefront on East Main Street.
After five-and-a-half years in business, the Ambiance Steak House, which doubled as the Club Inferno venue, is closed.
Owner Gabriel Diaz, who moved from Los Angeles to Barstow in 2004 to buy the business — formerly Gil's Place — blamed the economy for business that has slowed considerably in the past year.
"There was just no money coming in at all," he said.
Diaz said he decided about a month and a half ago that he would shut the business down. The venue held its last event, a two-day farewell party, two weeks ago. By the end of this week, Diaz said he expects to have the space cleared out entirely.
Diaz owned the business with his wife, Veronica Reveles. As of its closing, the venue had no full-time employees although he had some who worked on call, he said.
During its first four years of operation, the steak house was open every day, but as business dropped off, it cut back to hosting special events like banquets and quinceaneras, the traditional Mexican celebrations held when a girl turns 15. Over the years, Diaz said, the steak house hosted beauty pageants, fundraisers for the Boys and Girls Club, and Police Activities League dinners, as well as events targeting the Hispanic community.
The steak house's alter ego, Club Inferno, also hosted various types of events over the years, from all ages shows to dance nights.
"My kids are teenagers here, and there's really nothing for them to do, so we did a lot of rock shows," Diaz said.
Each year, he collaborated on the preparations for the Police Activities League's annual turkey dinner with Straw Hat Pizza owner Jeff Eason, Jr., and Max Atalla of Los Domingos. Diaz's role was to cook about 30 turkeys before the event, usually working for two days straight to complete the task.
Ambiance's closing will not let Diaz off the hook this year, said Eason, who is vice president of PAL as well as owner of the Straw Hat.
"He's still part of our PAL program, and come Thanksgiving ... we expect him to cook those turkeys again," he said.
Eason can relate to his friend's current plight, having started a new business — the Straw Hat Grill — only to see it fail in the past year.
"I just wish him success in the future," he said.
Diaz said he will stay in Barstow and plans to open another business, probably either a small restaurant or a sports bar.
"It was good — it was a good experience," he said of his years running Ambiance. "I learned a lot from it."
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