Union Plaza staple closes, set to reopen as special events venue

The Garden closes

EL PASO, Texas - The Garden, one of the longest-surviving businesses in the Union Plaza entertainment district, has closed its doors.

Owner John Geske told ABC-7 last Sunday was the final day of operation for the popular Downtown bar and restaurant.

"We're in the process of changing The Garden into an event center that focuses on weddings," Geske said.

Geske said the name will be changed to The Venue at Union Plaza. The plan is to reopen on April 1.

"We're gonna do a quick remodel," Geske said. "We're going to give it a fresh coat of paint and buy some new furniture and change the concept and concentrate on weddings, quincineras, brunch weddings, any corporate event -- even a show of sorts -- like if there is a band or DJ that wants to come in. But we won't be a full service restaurant. We're going to be an events center."

The Garden opened in 2011 and was one of the most popular places in El Paso for several years, but has fallen on more difficult times of late.

"It's been a great ride," Geske said. "It was the busiest place in El Paso for at least two and a half to three years straight."

Geske pointed to "the construction on the freeways and the different options in town, the last five years" as reasons for the closure.

"We know El Paso has got a lot of choices out there now and we feel like Union Plaza is a little hard to get to now," Geske said. "And we just feel like this is the way to go for the future of Union Plaza and hopefully we have other people that follow suit."

ABC-7 was there when a group of at least 10 people showed up for lunch at The Garden on Wednesday, only to be turned away.

"It was great," said Aziz Afravi, who had hoped to have lunch there with co-workers. "it was great atmosphere and I enjoyed the food. And today we were coming for the same reason."

Juanita Barker, who is from Lubbock and often visits Downtown El Paso on business, said The Garden was her favorite El Paso restaurant and bar.

"I loved the food and I loved the atmosphere, very relaxed atmosphere," a disappointed Barker said. "I liked coming after work and having a drink, and then staying for dinner. They had a beautiful garden outside. It's just such a unique environment, really nice. I loved it."

Geske said The Venue at Union Plaza will begin booking weddings and other events in a couple of weeks.

"We're going to have a digital rendering of what the place is going to look like once the new paint is on the walls and the new furniture is in," Geske said. "There's nowhere in El Paso that the gas lamps and the lighting fixtures and the cobble stone streets and just the character that Union Plaza has. We just feel like the transition is necessary. We want to be a part of it and we feel like this is the vehicle that we need to be going forward, hopefully for years to come."


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