Mermaid Cafe will change owners, leaving the future of the popular Atwood neighborhood spot up in the air.
Lisa Jacobson, owner and founder of the restaurant at 1929 Winnebago St., confirmed earlier this week she has accepted an offer to sell it. Jacobson would not identify the potential buyers, saying only that they're "a group of gentlemen — longtime bartenders and restaurateurs in Madison."
That said, until the deal goes through in April, Jacobson said she was not quite ready to "sing the swan song of the Mermaid Cafe."
"I don't like to talk about things until they're a 100 percent certainty," she said.
But on Friday, Jacobson posted the news to Facebook, announcing the cafe will close on March 31.
"Change is inevitable and change is good!" she wrote. "I am truly humbled by all of the support and sweet well-wishes I have already received. To all of the folks, including myself, who raised their children within her walls, I send you my deepest gratitude."
Jacobson said she has no idea if the new owners will keep the Mermaid Cafe identity alive, or if they will open up something new. She said the group has some ideas about the cafe's design and that the space would probably undergo some physical changes. The buyers are "very handy and talented people," she said.
The Mermaid Cafe has served as an anchor at the rapidly growing intersection of Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street ever since Jacobson opened the business in 2005. While the space has dabbled in bistro-style dinner services over the years, it has garnered a following on the east side for its brunches, baked goods and sandwiches.
Now, after 12 years behind the counter, Jacobson said the time feels right to leave the Mermaid Cafe behind. She said she put the property up for sale in mid-January.
"It's something I want to move on from," she said, adding: "I'm delighted and happy, and the new owners will be absolutely amazing."
If the sale of the cafe is indeed final, Jacobson may still have a major role to play in the east side's dining ecosystem: Her brother is behind the planned development of a boutique hotel on South Baldwin Street and has indicated that Jacobson would run the project's adjoining cafe.
Jacobson did not confirm her involvement, but said she was "very interested in the development of that space."