The Mediterranean restaurant Mezze on Gilman Street is closing and Paul's Pel'meni, the Russian dumpling shop, is moving into the space next month.
Mezze, which Rick Brahmer and Gwen Cassis opened two years ago at 414 W. Gilman St., in the space best known as Amy's Cafe, will close April 19. Until then, it will operate mostly as a bar with a limited menu.
Brahmer said he had issues with his chef and the restaurant wasn't working financially. "Myself and the wife, we're not getting any younger, so we can't do it ourselves anymore," he said.
"We really liked the idea. Maybe if we put it up on the Square it would have done better," said Brahmer, who with Cassis also owns the Argus Bar and Grill near the Capitol Square.
"There are so many places that have opened up on the Square, we kind of just have to focus on the Argus to keep above water these days because it's hard to find staff," he said.
Meanwhile, Paul's Pel'meni, which opened on Gorham Street in 2013, is moving across State Street, into the Mezze space.
Paul Schwoerer was subletting his shop at 201 W. Gorham St., from AJ Bombers, which is no longer located next door. The building has been sold and staying in his current space would cost him twice as much.
He is hoping to open in the new location by the end of May, not wanting to make a huge transition before the UW-Madison school year ends.
The current space is hard to run efficiently with confusion about where to order and pick up food, Schwoerer said. And the restaurant gets really crowded Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and sometimes for lunch. The new location isn't huge, but it will give him some extra space, Schwoerer said.
Plus, the Gorham space only has one bathroom. He'll have two with the new place.
Paul's Pel'meni is taking over Mezze's liquor license and will have a full bar. "It's a new addition, which I'm kinda scared of," Schwoerer said.
Still, Schwoerer doesn't plan on keeping the bar open past 1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. He will likely keep serving food the hours he does now, closing at bar time those nights, and 11 p.m. the other nights of the week.
"I didn't take the space because I want to run a bar," he said. "I think it will be a nice addition. It's there and why not?"
Schwoerer also owns the Oasis Cafe featuring EVP coffee, 2690 Research Park Dr., in Fitchburg, which recently got a paint job and some new furniture.
As of this week, Oasis also has a new cook, and is planning to expand its menu beyond sandwiches and chips, Schwoerer said.
"It's good bread and good deli meats, but there's nothing signature about anything that we do out there. It would be nice to put something kind of unique together," he said.
The new chef, Matthew Love, worked at Natt Spil for years and was recently working the grill at Funk's Pub.
Schwoerer said the cafe is going to incorporate more local ingredients "and make some thoughtful plates."