A pox has descended on the chain restaurant market, fouling traffic counts and rousing executives to spit in the direction of independent operations, the suspected pirates of lunch and dinner patrons. But being un-chained hasn’t spared some big-name indies from cueing the bugler to pucker up for taps, as these recent casualties suggest.
Gladstones; Malibu, Calif.
For 44 years, the seaside outpost took in money like it was Uncle Sam on April 15. Restaurant Business pegged its 2015 sales at $15.4 million, which landed it in the 49th position on RB’s Top 100 Independents ranking.
The landmark’s current owner is Richard Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles and an investor in such other area landmarks as The Pantry. He acquired the property after it changed hands a number of times. Its original owner, Robert Morris, even had it twice—before and after selling it to W.R. Grace, the onetime parent of Applebee’s and Houlihan’s.
The restaurant is famous for its Mai Tais, views of the sunset and the whimsical containers that staff members form out of foil wrap for carting home leftovers.
According to local media reports, state officials want to put a more contemporary dining establishment on the state-owned plot that houses Gladstones, and is using the bait of a 40-year lease to draw one. The stories mention that Gladstones’ management did not fight the decision.
The company says on its website that a closing date has yet to be set, but a number of reports say the lights will be turned off for the last time at the end of October.
A scaled-down outlet using the Gladstones name is located in Los Angeles International Airport.
Spice Market, New York City
Right below Gladstones on our Top 100 Independents ranking, also with estimated sales of $15.4 million, is Spice Market, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s cavernous Asian hybrid in New York’s Meatpacking District.
The district had been the nighttime playground for the city’s S&M community until Spice Market and a handful of other restaurants turned the area into a major dining destination, with huge restaurants filling what had been industrial spaces.
Reports have surfaced since the place opened in 2004 that Vongerichten and his partners might duplicate Spice Market in other U.S. cities (two operate abroad, in Qatar and Mexico). Now that will be their only way of maintaining a domestic presence for the Market. The original site’s landlord has reportedly decided to bring in a retailer to fill the space, prompting Vongerichten and his partners to set a sunset date of Sept. 29.
Colicchio & Sons, New York City
The youngster of the nearly departed is Tom Colicchio’s 6-year-old namesake place, Colicchio & Sons, which is also in the Meatpacking District. The chef, whose restaurants usually have “Craft” woven into their names ('Wichcraft, Craftbar, Craftsteak, and his original outpost Craft), announced in a tweet last week that he’ll fire down the ovens at Colicchio & Sons for good on Sept. 4
He did not cite a reason for closing.
Patsy’s Inn, Denver
Five years short of hitting the century mark, Denver’s oldest Italian restaurant decided to blow out the candles. Patsy’s served up its last pizza at lunch on Aug. 22 after a 95-year run. The announcement came via the institution’s Facebook page, with no stated reason.
The landmark specialized in what it called homemade Italian food in a setting that one Yelp poster likened to a grandmother’s home. As online comments attested, Patsy’s had been a favorite special occasion place for generations.
The place still had a 3.5-star rating on Yelp.