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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 5:03 pm | Mostly Cloudy 58º


Sojourner Café Closes After Decades in Business

The restaurant brought in more money after the owner's plea to help save the Santa Barbara staple but it wasn't enough, and the restaurant closed its doors for good this week

The Sojourner Cafe closed this week, which was announced in a sign outside the Santa Barbara eatery thanking customers for their support.
The Sojourner Cafe closed this week, which was announced in a sign outside the Santa Barbara eatery thanking customers for their support.    (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

After a bit of confusion earlier this week, Sojourner Café owner Donna Mudge has confirmed the Santa Barbara eatery is closed for good.

Locals weren’t sure what to think when a sign posted earlier this week said the restaurant at 134 E. Canon Perdido St. was “Closed Today.”

On Thursday, it switched to something more permanent thanking loyal patrons.

“I would like to thank all those who have been a part of keeping the vision of the Sojourner going for all these years, including, but not limited to, customers, staff and friends,” Mudge wrote in an email to Noozhawk.

“It’s been a great run and there are many memories. May we all have such great adventures. We’ll see you in the next chapter.”

Mudge wouldn’t go into any details about why she was closing the Sojourner now, but she put out the call to save the financially strapped Sojourner in a February Noozhawk story.

She asked patrons to return, and some did. She said she was taking suggestions to improve her business, and lots of those came in, too.

Mudge had been looking for a business partner or investor and found one in Nimita Dhirajlal of her namesake Santa Barbara catering company, Nimita’s Cuisine.

Nimita’s Cuisine planned to operate out of the Sojourner Café beginning last month on Mondays, since the café started closing on that day of the week last year.

Sojourner Cafe owner Donna Mudge asked the community to help save the struggling business in February but this week posted a sign to tell customers it was closed for good. Click to view larger
Sojourner Cafe owner Donna Mudge asked the community to help save the struggling business in February but this week posted a sign to tell customers it was closed for good.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The partnership was short-lived, however, with Nimita’s popping up to do “Meatless Mondays” in the space only once.

The reception was good, Dhirajlal said this week, but Mudge indicated she had decisions to make on her own about the Sojourner.

“We hope that we are able to offer pop-ups on Mondays at a different venue in order to continue serving our local community with healthy, organic meals,” she said. “I wish Donna only the best and my deep gratitude to her and the staff for making Sojourner such a safe gathering place for so many of us while we enjoyed wholesome meals throughout the years.”

It’s a bittersweet end for Mudge, who bought the 37-year-old restaurant from the original owner in 1999, having worked there as a part owner, prep cook, line cook and server for 11 years.

She told Noozhawk she wanted to save the Sojourner for the sake of the community, and the community did respond in the first six months or so after the plea for help.

A noticeable difference in revenue followed, but apparently it wasn’t enough.

“We’re like a landmark at this point,” Mudge told Noozhawk back in February.

“If I don’t tell people, they’re going to say, ‘Why didn’t you say something?’”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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