Old Europe, Z Lounge are closed ***UPDATED***

***UPDATE, 11:15 a.m., Feb. 4: Citing property records, the Citizen-Times reports today that the property was actually put into foreclosure, as opposed to Old Europe’s owners not getting a lease renewed, as originally reported. Click here for that story.***

Old Europe, the coffee shop and eatery on Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, has closed, along with the adjoining night club, Z Lounge.

Co-owner Zoltan Vetro told Xpress today he was forced to close the businesses after the new owner of his building declined to renew the establishments’ lease.

Vetro, who employed 21 people at the café and lounge, says that he plans to reopen Old Europe in a few months, and is searching for a new location, perhaps downtown. “We’re not bankrupt; I’m waiting at least a couple of months because of because of the economics,” he said, referencing the troubled economy. “It’s not looking good out there.”

Old Europe has been open since 1994, and moved to the Lexington Avenue location, where it also opened Z Lounge, in 2006.

Jon Elliston, managing editor

About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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46 thoughts on “Old Europe, Z Lounge are closed ***UPDATED***

  1. They put a ton of effort & money into making that place look nice & flashy. That courtyard stood empty for eons, falling into heavy repair needs. Its a darn shame all their hard work paid off with this sudden closing.
    However, I can’t say I’ve been a fan since they nearly doubled all of their prices when they moved from Battery to the corner of Walnut & Lexington. As a local who formally visited the old Old Europe all the time for its atmosphere & cheap(er) coffee, I absolutely detested going into the new one. Its all in how the cookie crumbles I suppose.

  2. nick s

    From the C-T: “Property records say Carolina First Bank foreclosed on the property, which had been owned by Old Europe Cafe of Asheville LLC.” So there’s more to this story than reported here.

    In any case, Old Europe should never have moved from Battery Park Ave and gone “upmarket” to attract tourists and self-imagined Beautiful People. The intimacy of the old location was part of its charm; the new staff brought in after the move looked down their noses at people coming in for coffee and dessert, preferring to chat among themselves and devote their time on getting big tips from fizz-sipping yuppies at the bar.

  3. Rob Close

    yeah, i felt the same way Jennny. and i bet that trickled on down, and they realized this, and that’s likely why this move is happening…so they can afford to do business at fairer rates again. maybe?

  4. JOHN-C

    Who are the new owners? and what are their plans…

    We could all use another brewery… Kidding

  5. Thirsty Monk

    Old Europe owned their space and the bank foreclosed on them for not paying their mortgage. The bank sold the space to a new owner four days ago, and that new owner didn’t want Old Europe in there anymore. There was no lease to be renewed or not renewed.

  6. whatever

    been hearing this for months. A nightclub and coffee shop are two difficult businesses to have anywhere, particularly in Asheville. People continually over estimate the business they will get here, and these folks should know as Old Europe has been here for years

  7. jen

    I figured they owned the space. I heard from an employee that they were hurting financially.

  8. Thirsty Monk

    Interesting enough, according to county records, the bank lost about $500,000 on the foreclosure. Old Europe owed more than $1.2 million to Carolina First and, once they foreclosed, they sold the property to the new owner for $731,000.

  9. yo

    Reopen in a few months? Someone is going to give these people another loan?

  10. Paul -V-

    I don’t get it. Old Europe looked like a thriving little restaurant – and Z Lounge seemed to be doing okay.

    Having that corner empty is going to be a blow to that part of town.

  11. What I’m seeing here is a long time locally loved coffee bar that did well and upgraded, but in doing so sold out their local clientele. Whether they intended to or not, who knows?
    Regardless of whether they had to start dishing out San Fransisco prices because they were paying high overhead on the building’s mortgage, or because they chose to depend on the high priced tourist culture by reaching for too much pie in the sky, in the end they sunk their own battleship.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like many of us from the community are going to miss the franchise. I just hope that economic factors allow that street corner to be used again soon.

  12. Pen Kap

    “Old Europe owed more than $1.2 million to Carolina First and, once they foreclosed, they sold the property to the new owner for $731,000. ”

    Is it accurate to say the bank “lost” that money? Isn’t that just an example of someone (Zoltan) buying a property at an inflated value and then losing it? The property wasnt really worth 1.2 million, it would appear, yes?

  13. bmwloco

    Oh well.

    Maybe Asheville is slowing and returning to the tiny, empty burg I came to know and love as a *gasp* local.

  14. really?

    Here we go…another “Let’s hope Asheville doesn’t grow so it goes abck to the way it was when *I* first moved here” argument. That will solve everything.

  15. coffeelover

    They did do a good job on the renovation…but I went there one time for coffee. It was ok and way overpriced.
    Here’s a tip: way to stay in business, make a better product and sell it for a fair price.
    Sunnypoint Cafe & Tupelo Honey, 12 Bones both do this in spades. These businesses do not appear to be hurting in these down times.

  16. CrustyBee

    I guess there’s nothing wrong with a “reaching for the stars” attitude when it comes to business, but, in this case, that seems to have bitten these proprietors in the keester.

    I was devastated, at first, when OE first located to Lexington. Fortunately, for me and my friends, someone else recognized the viability of the old location and kept a very similar establishment in operation. Once I was able to force myself into World Coffee I couldn’t tell that much had changed, exception for the sanitation(greatly improved), and the friendly employees. Was there something about working at OE that made everyone so hateful? I often wonder what happened to that exotic, long legged girl with the constant scowl on her face.

  17. Jeff Fobes

    Another piece in the puzzle: Zoltan told me shortly before Old Europe left the Flat Iron Building that he was leaving against his will, and only because he had lost his lease there.

  18. CrustyBee –

    I actually think World Coffee did the best thing possible – they kept a perfectly working situation and made it better. I actually enjoy going there much more than I did the old Old Europe.

  19. LOKEL

    I think there is more to this ….

    How is it that the bank managed to sell the building so quickly ….

    Why does Zoltan have differing stories ….

    Who is listed as the new owners ….

  20. girlmakesart

    I wish everyone weren’t being so negative about Old Europe. I liked them in their old location better too. But let’s give them a lot of credit. They started from nothing and were a locally owned and operated business.They brought a sophisticated product to Asheville at a time when it wasn’t here. They produced and sold at a very reasonable price some very classic european pastries like struedel. I always ordered my christmas struedel there. They worked in their business themselves. We should be thanking them for what they have given to Asheville all these years and hoping the best for them. If their failure was overreaching by purchasing a space where they thought they could thrive and build equity, is that really a failure, isn’t that part of the american dream?

  21. Ex-Pat

    Oh, who cares? I used to work in the Flat Iron. And for nearly a decade I’d buy a coffee there at least once a day. And rather than be a friendly neighbor to a regular customer, Zoltan was never nice. The vibe was always like “you’re not a well-healed yuppie about to spend twenty bucks, you’re not worth my time.”

    Add to this what seemed like possibly sleazy hiring practices and a Z Lounge dress code bordering on discriminatory…cry me a river…

  22. Phaster

    All of you (including Mt X writer and Thirsty Monk) have inaccurate information…all the way from the open since date of Old Europe to the details of the present situation.

  23. Jon Elliston

    Thanks Phaster, for pointing out the start date error. We’ve fixed that so that now it accurately notes that 1994 was when OE opened. You mention other inaccuracies — can you tell us what they are?

  24. Devon

    I am not a born and bred local like MOST of you. I lived in A’ville for 1995, and I am saddened still that I had to move away. I make a yearly return to flood your economy with $1.95 – $2.95 at a time on both good and bad coffee. Whenever I travel and feel homesick, I end up in a cafe, whether it be in SF, London, Barcelona, Guadalajara, or even the avocado capital (Fallbrook, CA). There typically is a comforting (not Waffle House comfort) familiarity that includes the patina of a well-worn floor, pastry cases etched by decades of cleaning, and an earthy, woody coffee smell. Upon one of my returns to visit friends in A’ville, I was heartbroken to find my oasis gone. OE (the original) had a staff of interesting alternababes, and the one tall and exotic one… she was not scowling. I came to know her as a friend, and I found her to be one of the more intuitive, sensitive and loving people I met. Some other poster referred to the staff as hateful? That is absurd! Either you were ignored for being a leering perv or you were too shy to bother to be personable with the staff.

  25. CrustyBee

    I, for one, didn’t mean to be “so negative about Old Europe”, or its owners. Several people I know drive in excess of 50 miles to visit Asheville on a regular basis. One of our biggest reasons for doing so is/was the great atmosphere and interesting people at the old, Old Europe location. Many of us gave the new location a try but didn’t care for the move away from the simpler business model-the wait staff killed it for me.

    I don’t know Zoltan personally but I wish him all the best and I’m willing to give his new venture(s), if any, a try. I’ve been visiting Asheville since the 80’s and it’s the business people like the Vetro’s who have helped turn things around downtown.

  26. Phaster

    The landlord at Battery Park did not renew the lease because he wanted to open his own coffee shop, World Coffee Cafe. Old Europe relocated with a new concept in hopes of ‘doing better’ than previously, and because they were unable to continue with the business they had at the same location. The overhead was much larger, of course, and the challenges of the economy and lending institutions did not help matters. And to JBo’s comment, I would state, thus the increase in prices. The increase in prices were proportionate to the increase in overhead, but still not enough to cover expenses. The foreclosure had little to nothing to do with the decision of the owners of Old Europe to close. Both the lender and the owners of Old Europe made an agreement with the new owner to mutually benefit all. The new owner of the location has plans that do not include Old Europe and Old Europe has plans that do not include the Lexington location. Pen Kap made a good point about the unrealistic value, and we all know this is a much larger issue that the nation and world is facing now. There is always more than meets the eye in any story and even my attempt to clarify falls short of the exact details of the situation at hand. The bottom line is that all parties involved (Old Europe, Woodward McKee, Carolina First, and World Coffee) have succeeded. There is no failure here, only adjustments to the new directions chosen.

  27. CrustyBee

    Devon-it’s interesting that you seem to know exactly who I was referring to-very insightful.

    I’m confident Asheville misses your patronage. Good luck in your world travels.

  28. been dare done dat

    Rumor #1 Old Europe is considering reopening upstairs from it’s last location with an entrance on Rankin Avenue. Smaller, cozier, and just like it was in the old days. I bet your mouth is watering just thinking about it!
    Foreclosure? Chuckle Chuckle…….what is not in foreclosure? Face it, we are in a Bush-pression and we are all suffering. So don’t let the rumor mill ruin your appetite for Melinda’s home made European pastries, they are not gone, they are simply on Holiday.
    Rumor #2 The new owner may not be a coffee spilling, late night partier trust fund rich kid. It only appears that way. And related to a company with a name like Whiteside something or other LLC? How could that be?
    Rumor #3 the pretty and friendly lady that lives on the way tip top of the same building as Old Europe has not joined Whiteside something or other LLC, but may just have woken up to find a coffee spilling gentleman waiting outside her door with bags of money hoping to take over the 3rd floor terrace that has been famous for it’s beer drinking stadium views of Belle Chere and the other local events. Long Live Old Europe!

  29. F.A. John Doubleclutch

    I met a guy named Ron that owned the second floor unit of that building. He said he was from FL. and was going through a divorce. He began remodeling the second floor unit a couple of years ago but I don’t believe that project was ever finished. He seemed a nice guy I wonder how he’s doing?

  30. David Forbes

    Thank you, everyone, for all the additional information and perspectives. Xpress would like to find out more about this situation: both what happened with Old Europe and what’s going to happen with it.

    Please contact me at dforbes@mountainx.com.

  31. lance

    JBO: I actually think World Coffee did the best thing possible


    FOBES: Zoltan told me shortly before Old Europe left the Flat Iron Building that he was leaving against his will, and only because he had lost his lease there

    So, Jenny, what do you enjoy “much more” about World Coffee, the smell of gentry in the air? That’s the new management!

  32. Lance –

    For one they expanded the seating, making it a great coffee house to have meetings in that give options to have a little more privacy. I make coffee at home, so if I am going out it is normally for meetings so having a comfortable space is something I list as a priority. The folks working there tend to give good service on the whole, and their prices are fair to everywhere else.

  33. lance

    I think you’re missing my point that the landlord let Old Europe build out the space, build up a customer base, and then decided to run a coffee house his own damn self. Not illegal, but lacks the humanity and general sense of community that small towns thrive upon.

    But hey, as long as you’re ‘comfortable’ in a space that reeks of greed and envy, have at it.

  34. been dare done dat

    Lance, you need new things to do with yourself. Zoltan was the owner of his space. There was no Landlord. So boo to you. Plus you have obviously mistaken “Class” for greed and envy. And the reason Old Europe moved to Lexington was because his Lease expired at Battery Park, he was nof offered a renewal, and supposedly the Landlord just took it over and re-opened the next day under a new name. This is greed. You were not his landlord were you Lance?

  35. Lance –

    From what I am getting, you are saying Z-man got kicked out of his lease and then the Flat Iron folks decided to take that space and do the same thing? If that is the full and total truth then yes, I agree – that is not good business practice.

    Yet others say he lost his lease or that he wanted to move to buy the other bldg at Walnut & Lexington.

    The point of these discussions is to get more info out there to the public at large. You can’t blame the general public or individual consumers for the plain ignorance of not knowing all of the details of local business gossip. That is why we have the great folks at the MntX where ‘Local Matters.’

    And I still stand behind my former statement, from my perspective, World Coffee does a better job at running that space.

  36. been dare done dat

    Lance, the only way you lose a lease is when you can’t find it. Then it is lost. Otherwise you have it and it still has time on it or it is over. In this case the person that told you he lost his lease meant his lease was over. And when the Landlord does not want to renew it and you have a good biz, most Tenants will look to move somewhere else, as did Zoltan and Melinda. The location and front space was perfect for a European coffee house. Th rear space was a tough one as it was partially underground. BTW, you kind of have to thank the well known contractor that built out the space for being a bit greedy. The main reson why Zoltan went out of biz was due to overhead and servicing the loans that were borrowed to pay for the Renovations.

  37. Paul -V-

    The direction this thread has taken is so utterly pointless – it’s giving me cancer.

  38. lance

    I’m quoting FOBES quoting Z-man regarding Flat Iron location.

    been dare done dat -chuckle chuckle – mind your own business

  39. PVH-

    Not really, it’s still on point as far as folks are still discussing Old Europe.

    It’s not like some of the other threads that go WAY off point. I agree we’re beating a dead cat here on some points, but the larger issue of the local business economy is still at hand.

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