Independent restaurants continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic
This is the latest in an occasional series looking at the local restaurants closing their doors permanently due to the pandemic.
Independent restaurants around the country, many of which operated for decades, are closing their doors in record numbers because of the ongoing economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Well-capitalized big chains, some of which are posting double-digitsame-store sales jumps, are finding success with their digital platforms and drive-throughs. Many mom and pops, though, are making the heartbreaking decision to close their doors forever.
These closures impact communities, to be sure. But they will also have a tremendous impact on an industry in which 70% of all restaurants are estimated to be single-unit independents, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Here is our second installment of independent restaurants that have recently announced permanent closures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The California Clipper, Chicago
The red-lit California Clipper, which has operated in some form in Chicago since the 1930s, announced this week it will not reopen. Multi-concept operator Hogsalt Hospitality took over the classic speakeasy-style cocktail bar in 2014.
“If you do the math on just paying the rent on an already slim-margin business, there’s just not much choice to it,” owner Brendan Sodikoff told Eater Chicago.
Bernie’s Burger Bus, Houston
Bernie’s Burger Bus got its start as a food truck in Houston in 2010. The burger-and-shake concept grew to four units in Texas. It announced this week that it will close permanently Sunday.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to communicate this, but with accumulating debt, decreased sales, and the rising cost of doing business, we were starting to move into the danger zone,” chef-owner Justin Turner said in a statement. “I was not going to be able to afford the remaining 10 of 114 staff I had left, and paying my team was more important to me than anything else.”
Satterfield’s Upper Deck Restaurant; Baton Rouge, La.
Southern-style restaurant and pub Satterfield’s Upper Deck Restaurant announced this week that it is closing after 28 years because of the economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
“It’s bittersweet, but it’s the reality of the world that we’re in now,” the owner’s son, Arthur Ewing, told local station WAFB. “It’s kind of a lot of uncertainty and trying to figure out what the new normal is going to look like.”
Shady Grove, Austin
After nearly three decades in Austin, Shady Grove said it could not survive the pandemic. The restaurant, started by the founders of Chuy’s, is known for its comfort food and long-running live music series.
“After 28 years of great food, amazing music and memories that will last a lifetime, our time on Barton Springs Road has come to an end,” the restaurant posted on Facebook earlier this month. “This closure has had a profound effect on all of us but none more than the amazing employees at Shady Grove. Please know that we are doing everything we can to care for these wonderful people as we all mourn the loss of one of our favorite places in Austin.”
Momofuku Nishi, New York City
Even restaurants from nationally known groups are struggling. David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group decided to close its Nishi Restaurant permanently earlier this month.
“This crisis has been the hardest time in Momofuku’s history, and I’m writing today to share more hard news and to discuss what comes next,” CEO Margeurite Zabar Mariscal wrote on the company’s website. “At Nishi, we served everything from Impossible Burgers to ceci e pepe—but more than that, it was where we faced unexpected challenges and learned how to overcome them. In circumstances where most other restaurants would falter, we succeeded. I wish we could have continued writing those stories.”
Primavera Ristorante, San Diego
A San Diego staple for Italian dining since 1989, Primavera Ristorante’s owners said “with a heavy heart” earlier this month they would not be reopening post-pandemic.
“In 1989, my husband, Cristos, and I opened Primavera,” co-owner Jeanette Stavros wrote on the restaurant’s website. “Built on his belief that fine Italian cuisine and treating people like family would be the recipe to success, we have hosted generations of guests. After his passing, my daughter Denise and I continued to run our family restaurant with the values instilled by my husband.”
Lalime’s; Berkeley, Calif.
“COVID-19 has made the decision for us, Lalime’s is retiring, the Berkeley, Calif., stalwart posted on its website late last month. “We would have liked to bid you adieu in person, but the masks and the gloves are in the way.”
Lalime’s had been serving its California-Mediterranean cuisine since 1985.
Barry’s Pizza, Houston
Thousands of customers responded to a Facebook post earlier this week when Houston restaurant Barry’s Pizza announced its closure after nearly four decades.
“Well, friends, it’s official,” the post said. “COVID-19 killed Barry’s. We had a great 37-year run. I’ll carry these memories always.”
Johnny V’s Classic Cafe, Milwaukee
Breakfast-lunch-and-dinner spot Johnny V’s Classic Cafe operated in Milwaukee’s West Allis neighborhood for 28 years, before announcing its closure this week.
“With the effects of the Covid pandemic, we have concluded with our landlord to end our lease, this was effective immediately,” the restaurant wrote on Facebook. “The Vassalio family is working on relocating to make your favorites available.”
Emperor Norton’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria; San Jose, Calif.
San Jose’s Emperor Norton’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria operated for 45 years, but it could not navigate the business environment created by the coronavirus crisis.
“Dear Valued Customers,” the restaurant’s owners wrote on Facebook. “It is with great sadness that we inform you that after so many incredible years of servicing this wonderful community, Emperor Norton’s Italian Restaurant is now permanently closed.”