By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 30, 2020 at 8:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

Urban Beets Cafe & Juicery at 1401 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. observed its last day of operations on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The fast casual plant-based restaurant opened in 2016, establishing itself with a mission rooted in a commitment to wellness, empathy, sustainability and better living.  Two years later, the brand expanded to include a West Side location in Wauwatosa.  The Wauwatosa location remains open.

Urban Beets announced the news of the closing in a Facebook post which cited the challenges of operating in an increasingly busy corridor with limited parking.

Following an outpouring of responses from customers, owners Dawn Balistreri and Jason Massman addressed customer concerns with another, more detailed response:

"I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for the outpouring of support we received in response to our downtown café. We were touched by the comments, and wanted to respond.

"In today’s world, the phrase 'It’s just business' is often offered like a shield for business owners from culpability for the decisions they make. Bottom line, business is sometimes really not just business – often it’s personal. We literally built a lot of our downtown café ourselves, doing much of the build-out work by hand, to make it the most cost effective as possible. We worked often upwards of 70 hours a week. We went through the stress and anxiety of putting other important things on hold, to make this café a reality. We had the support of many great employees, managers, and friends over the years.

"We didn’t build it out of greed, or for status. We built it because we believed we had been very fortunate in other areas of our lives, and we had been personally touched by the mission of providing animal-free, whole, plant based foods that nourished the body. We had lost people who we cared about to diseases that were impacted by poor nutrition – we had seen the suffering of animals that were part of our food chain. We wanted to make a difference. We wanted to do something that had a true, positive social impact. We thought it would make us healthier, better people, and we wanted to give back in a meaningful way.

"Over the last few years, the efforts towards making it work significantly negatively impacted our health, our friendships, and our time to enjoy life. After 4 years of operation downtown, we leave it with a heavy financial loss.

"With all of that, we have no regrets, save those that we have for the employees of our downtown store – who we’ve offered to help as best we can. Bottom line, we still believe in the mission, and we believe we brought forward great food, a great experience, and helped some people along the way to live a better life. We’re grateful for that opportunity – we’re immensely grateful for your support, and hope to see you in Tosa soon."

Urban Beets in Wauwatosa is open Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.