Mardi Gras in Naperville won't be the same this year with the closing of longtime downtown restaurant Heaven on Seven.
The Cajun spot popular for its Fat Tuesday celebrations closed effective Jan. 1 because ownership decided not to renew the lease, General Manager Russ Hillard said Wednesday.
"We used up all the extensions that were available," Hillard said. "It was the owner's decision."
The restaurant's run in downtown lasted 14 years at 224 S. Main St., during which time it built a following with its wall full of hot sauces and its gumbo, corn muffins, po'boy sandwiches and Southern classics.
"It was familiar faces when people came in. We got to know our guests by name. We had a ton of regulars," Hillard said. "It was just a good quality experience that they knew they could count on."
Regulars lamented the closing in comments on a Facebook post from Hillard that said "All good things must come to an end."
"Although we're very sad to see them go -- they were a great long-standing downtown Naperville business -- businesses have a life cycle," said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance. "It was a beloved but unique cuisine that one might say kind of ran its course."
Heaven on Seven was the second location of a Chicago concept that chef Jimmy Bannos and family have been operating on Wabash Avenue for 37 years. Bannos' brother, George Bannos, died unexpectedly in August 2017, but Hillard said that had nothing to do with the decision to close the Naperville restaurant.
Wood said the dining landscape in Naperville and the Western suburbs has been evolving, with more cuisines and competition cropping up to make it more difficult for any one eatery to stay alive.
Hillard said the restaurant's 50 employees helped make that possible. After learning of the closing Dec. 26, those employees -- including some who had been with the restaurant since it opened -- now are seeking new jobs.
"I'd certainly like to bring some of them along with me," Hillard said. "It was a good staff. I hope they all land on their feet. I know they'll all land on their feet."