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The George goes dark; Founders Tower has a tall vacancy to fill

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The George Prime Steakhouse, which opened atop Founders Tower last June, has shuttered.

Officials with Founders Tower and owner Kevin George confirmed the news on Wednesday.

Owner Kevin George opened his ambitious, ostentatious restaurant after many years as a partner with the Interurban Restaurant group but a litany of troubles dogged the concept before it ever opened.

Despite purchasing the top floor in the spring of 2013 and hiring chef Josh Valentine that summer, George didn’t open his restaurant for another year, eight months later than the initial plan, because of assorted problems like flooding, outdated plumbing and an HVAC system that had to replaced in the space built in the early 1960s.

Opened in 1964 as the Chandelle Club, the restaurant boasted of being one of only two rotating restaurants in the world at the time.

In 1979 Val-Gene Restaurant Group took over the space and turned it into the Eagle’s Nest. That concept lasted more than 15 years before Bill Wilson, current Opus Prime Steakhouse proprietor, turned it into Nikz at the Top. That concept closed in a dispute with the landlords over asbestos remediation in 2007.

The vacancy was supposed to end six years later, but some of the problems Nikz faced still hadn’t been resolved. More than a year after signing the lease and an Old Testament succession of new problems, The George opened in late June of 2014.

To overcome all the unforeseen problems, the restaurant needed to operate without further problems. However, founding chef Josh Valentine left only four months after opening. Valentine, who now works as the resident chef for Carlton Landing, spent more time on staff before the restaurant opened than he did after. Chef Chad Willis followed but left earlier this year to take over the kitchen of A Good Egg Dining’s The Drake, which has gotten off to a terrific start.

As tumult found the kitchen, initial raves about the food gradually devolved as illustrated by a downturn in positive comments on various customer feedback sites.

This was George’s first solo concept. While history might not be kind to The George, it should be noted the dining experience it offered in the beginning was spectacular and helped elevate Oklahoma City dining.

George didn't say what immediate plans he and his investors had for the space, but undoubtedly some new concept eventually will move into it. Any success found will be in some part due to the blood, sweat, tears and cash Kevin George spilled into the lofty perch. Better luck to Kevin on his next venture and better luck to those who follow his footsteps to the top of Founders Tower.

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Dave Cathey

The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene. Read more ›

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