Rumors of restaurant closings and openings make for a game of telephone 

Local astrologer and waitress Brenda G. Smith has definitely felt some negative cosmic influences on the economy and the restaurant scene lately. I can't begin to keep all those planetary oppositions and trines straight. One thing I do know: Things are tough all over.

A few weeks ago, I heard that chef Debbie Gold had shuttered her 40 Sardines restaurant at 11942 Roe in Leawood. Two restaurateurs called to tell me that several of Gold's employees had come to them looking for jobs because the place was definitely closed. But when I called 40 Sardines, shortly after the news broke, Gold's voice was on the answering machine saying that the once-hot dining spot was "closed for remodeling." Now, that same phone number rings and rings endlessly.

If the old 40 Sardines space will soon be vacant, you have to wonder what its next tenant might be. Maybe the Mango Room (1111 Main)? That's wishful thinking on my part. Last Friday, a disappointed fan of Thelma Oliver and Ian Hockenberger's three-year-old restaurant called KCUR 89.3's Walt Bodine Show to say that the Mango Room was closed. I refused to believe it until I called the place myself and heard Oliver's recorded voice say the Mango Room was located at the corner of 12th Street and Main, but the downtown location of the Mango Room had closed on April 19. "We will reopen shortly," Oliver's message said, "out south."

I haven't been able to reach Oliver, so I'm not sure how far "out south" might be.

And speaking of out south — is the Country Club Plaza's Ruth's Chris Steak House moving to Johnson County? The Florida-based restaurant chain — which announced the departure of CEO Craig Miller last Thursday — has reported declining same-store sales, and suddenly rumors are flying that the local outpost of the high-end steakhouse is either closing or moving. The Plaza restaurant's manager, Leslie Nowe, wouldn't answer either question. She suggested that I call the corporate public-relations director in Florida.

I'm still waiting to hear back. Until then, I'll ask Brenda Smith to search the stars for answers.

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