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Tower Club restaurant shuts doors

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007 12:00 am

McALLEN — The lights are dimmed.

The doors are locked.

And the elevator at McAllen’s tallest structure has stopped servicing the 17th floor that once housed the city’s most exclusive restaurant.

The Tower Club, located on the top floor of the Neuhaus Building — popularly known as the Chase Bank Tower for its ground-level tenant — closed last week after more than a quarter century of business.

“The ambience there was wonderful, especially at night,” said McAllen Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Ahlenius, who frequented the restaurant for business meetings and banquets.

“There was a great panoramic view of not just McAllen, but of the whole Rio Grande Valley.”

Ana Quintana, owner of the business, refused to comment on the closing.

“She just decided to close the restaurant,” said her husband, Ofsman Quintana.

For now, the future of the coveted penthouse space is unclear.

The building’s managers may be looking to place an upscale national chain in the space, like a Landry’s, Morton’s Steakhouse or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

“It has a great location on top of that bank and it’s a great spot for a restaurant,” Ahlenius said.

The building’s property manager did not return several messages.

Opening in 1980, the iconic members-only restaurant was one of the first truly upscale establishments in the Upper Valley.

It was also the face of McAllen’s very first skyscraper and its growing economy.

“It was the most exclusive restaurant in the whole Valley,” said Cynthia Sakulenzi, a Valley native and president and CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“There isn’t any other restaurant or club in the Valley that can see all of McAllen like you did at the Tower Club. On a clear day you could see into Mexico.”

The McAllen Economic Development Corp. would use the restaurant to wine and dine out-of-country visitors, said Mike Allen, former CEO and president of the organization.

“It was very good for business,” Allen said.

When Allen came to the Valley in 1987, he said the restaurant had already established itself as the most upscale of local establishments.

The Tower Club, which has hosted McAllen’s power brokers, business moguls and political elite with fine dining for the last 25 years, has undergone major changes itself during the last few years.

In 2005, it completed a pricy renovation that cost “several hundreds of thousands of dollars” and started opening the facility to outside private events like weddings and receptions.

For most of its life, the restaurant’s owners prided themselves in exclusivity, only offering membership to the club with invitations from other members.

Then the restaurant started advertising itself to new members two years ago and raised its dues to pay for renovations. At that time, the Tower Club serviced between 600 and 800 members.

The Neuhaus Building has recently undergone a flurry of change.

Several non-profit groups, including the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, moved out after the building’s owners, Brookfield Asset Management, raised rents.

It is unclear whether a rent increase was a deciding factor in the closure.

____

Kyle Arnold covers business, the economy and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4410. For this and more on local stories, visit www.themonitor.com.

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