Jet Foley created a bar where everyone knows her name.
But after five years owning the RIOT in Old Town Bar in Cottonwood, Foley will close the big garage doors for the final time on Sunday.
“RIOT has had a fun five-year run, but I am ready to close and move on to the next phase of my life,” she told staff, employees, family and friends in a statement.
“I can’t express enough how lucky I feel to have been a part of Old Town, this community and blessed to have met incredible people from staff to locals to tourist. This is a positive for me, so please celebrate my next chapter.
“I will be liquidating and selling the building. Hugs.”
“The reality is, I’m done,” Foley said. “Hurdles and finances and juggling and staffing and ordering; those are all things every restaurant owner deals with day in and day out and I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”
Foley said she realized she didn’t have it in her anymore, especially after the recent minimum wage increase that would have required her to increase her charges.
Through the years Foley has tried many ways to increase her business with Beer School, LGBQ night, prime rib night, Thirsty Thursday’s and with entertainment by local musicians.
The profits from Foley’s most popular event, Beer School, went to a local charity twice a month. In 2017, Foley packed up her SUV donated items from the community into a borrowed trailer and truck and drove to Texas with Hurricane Harvey with relief items packed up at the RIOT by staff and friends.
Foley used to be co-owners of the Red Rooster in Cottonwood and Mine restaurant in Jerome.
She said the RIOT was the first restaurant she owned by herself and it was very hard. “You work every day. It’s non-stop.”
“I want to be an employee,” Foley explained. “I want someone to give me a paycheck,” she said with a smile, and not worry where the money is going to come from or where the next event is going to be set up. “I’ve had a nice ride.”
Foley has owned the building that was a former 76 gas stationand garage. It sat vacant for years until it was turned into a beer and wine bar eight years ago and she bought it three years later.
Foley took it a step further and made it a restaurant with a full bar. “I wanted to have a restaurant where a family could hang out,” Foley said. “And I think I achieved that.”
The restaurant is known for its outside couches, pool table, and under-the-stars dining. “A safe, fun, open environment,” Foley said.
Foley said she has about 10 to 12 employees depending on the time of year. She said they are all “amazing” and is confident they will get hired – especially at the end of February when restaurants will be scooping up everyone in the industry. Foley hopes to get back to cooking breakfasts herself.
Referring to the RIOT building, Foley said she would love to see it stay a restaurant and bar, but hopes the new owners will take it to another level and morph it into something better. “I wish I had the energy for that,” Foley said. The building is “super-fun” for Old Town.
The RIOT building is at the entrance of Old Town, right next to a newly proposed brewpub in the building next door. But Foley said the brewpub had nothing to do with her decision, and even welcomed the brewpub to help spruce up the area.
She said the entrance of Cottonwood needs a flagship and the brewpub will bring more people.
She said her customers were of every demographic and at one time she had 32 different beers on tap. Foley said people could come in and enjoy “homemade” food.
Foley said the bar had a “regular” crowd and it was tough notifying everyone about her decision to close. She contacted about 80 people through phone calls alone to break the news.
“I’ve made amazing friends though this property,” she said. “And it’s been nothing but positive.”
“My numbers are good,” Foley said. “It’s a good business.” It needs someone that is “vital and excited” to be in it, I used to be that.” It has great customers and a great staff.
Keith Okie, a regular at the RIOT, will be playing this Thursday for the RIOT’s final Thirsty Thursday before Foley closes her doors.
“We are staying open through next Sunday and getting rid of inventory and giving our locals a chance to come by and have a last experience,” her statement said.
Bring the Kleenex.