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Sweet River Bar and Grill gives way to new restaurant Table 26
The interior of the former Sweet River Bar and Grill is being gutted and refurbished to make way for the new Table 26 coming soon.

Although franchise-owned Sweet River Bar and Grill on Geer Road has closed its doors, locals will soon have a new restaurant at which to dine in town as Table 26 is slated to open at Sweet River’s former location in as soon as two months time.

Precipitated by former Sweet River owner Juan Valencia’s decision to not renew the property’s lease, the facility proved to be just what a trio of restaurant owners were looking to invest in for their first property.

“It wasn’t a good investment and it was just time for me to move onto something else,” said Valencia.

Annette and Frank Lemos and their partner John Gardner were more than happy to relieve Valencia of his burden. After searching for several years for a location to open a locally-sourced, community driven restaurant, Sweet River proved to be the right size and layout for Table 26 and the owners began negotiations with Valencia in the beginning of this year. However, this isn’t the first time that the building has changed hands as the property has played host to a multitude of restaurants over the past decade with Sweet River maintaining the ground the longest over the last eight years. 

“It did change hands a lot and no one really lasted there for more than six months they would say before we moved in,” said Valencia. “It’s difficult, especially for a franchise in Turlock where you’ve got so many restaurants in a town where the population can’t support all there is going on.”

While competition may be steep by Valencia’s standards, Table 26 is taking a different approach and looking to tap into Turlock’s population of restaurant goers to impart to them a spirit of the Central Valley through their “community driven and locally sourced” American cuisine.

“We’re promoting a locally driven concept and using our relationships with local farmers and growers to enhance their product through our unmatched food preparation and service,” said Frank Lemos.

While the exterior may still bear the Sweet River Bar and Grill décor, the insides of the facility are being torn up and revamped to offer locals a more unique ambiance including fireplace settings and outdoor dining. However, not all aspects of the former bar and grill will be discarded as Table 26 has kept the “best of the best” of the former franchise’s staff. With the positions of chef, sous chef, and front room manager filled, in coming weeks Table 26 will be looking to hire more servers, bartenders, and kitchen personnel as well.

While the restaurant facility has smoothly shifted hands from Sweet River to Table 26 there is one nearby business’ future that is not so certain: Heaven Snow, the summertime snow cone stand that currently resides in the Sweet River parking lot.

Heaven Snow owner Violet Saveh-Irasava has had a longstanding relationship with the Sweet River owner who has allowed her to operate her snow cone business in the parking lot as well as store her ice at the restaurant. While the pop-up shop’s season is slated to end by the end of September or early October, where Saveh-Irasava will open up next season is in the air.

“It all depends upon what the new owners want. We’re trying to be accommodating as possible right now,” said Saveh-Irasava, who has found a way to temporarily store ice while the restaurant is under construction.

With no plans set just yet as far as relocating, Saveh-Irasava knows that should she need to move, the facility would need to be kid-friendly with an outdoor space for seating. However, according to Lemos keeping the snow cone shop may be a possibility.

“At this stage we haven’t put a lot of thought towards it just yet, but there are no plans to make any changes this year though we’ll weigh the options for the future,” said Lemos. “It seems like a worthwhile business to bring to our community and we’re really driven by what the community wants.”