Thursday, April 8, 2010

Walking The Plank : DeathWatch 2010 Q2


With so many comments on my post in January marking the return of the Deathwatch, it's obvious that it's still of interest to many of my readers. In the first quarter of 2010, my closure predictions of Aquaknox, Pizza Fusion Urban Flats and Martin + Osa all came to fruition. While I'm in no way happy to see this happen, there's no denying I'm accurate. Please, don't for a minute think that I arbitrarily add businesses to the Deathwatch. I examine the business and appraise the likelihood of them remaining viable and if not, for how long they will last. With this in mind, I made no mention of previous DW members Straits, Taste and Ed Hardy. As little as I think of them myself, they have the funding behind them to keep them going, and in some cases an owner with too big an ego to let go and give up. Additionally, I have discovered that the Dolce Group at Atlantic Station is receiving significant rent concessions in an effort to keep them open. With this in mind, please find the new list after the jump

Eateries

~57th Fighter Restaurant - After opening for the third time, the restaurant seems doomed for another closure. Its greatest asset, its cozy, hidden location next to PDK, is also its greatest weakness, as passersby don't realize it's there. I hope they can turn it around once and for all but I think they need to do a better job of marketing and promoting the restaurant.

~Cantina Taqueria & Tequila Bar - Similar to the story below, this Here to Serve concept is just taking up space for now. Its shelf life is probably 10 months. Lola opened as Italian, then became Mediterranean, then closed. Now we have a Mexican concept, the cuisine du jour for restaurateurs to open. With the restaurant still located in logistical hell Terminus, it may be time to pull an Aquaknox and ditch the development altogether.

~Coast Seafood & Raw Bar - Having just opened in what was previously Seeger's, Posh and Home, there's not much hope for this concept right off the bat. As good (or bad) as the food may turn out to be, it's just a bad location. Seeger's was great, but it became impossible to make a go of it with a space so small. Here to Serve wisely added outdoor patio dining during the Home days, but in doing so, took valuable parking from the front. With the St. Regis across the street, one would think they could get enough business to survive, but that assumption means I'm saying the St. Regis has diners to send, which more often than not, it doesn't. Things are sure to get interesting when The Big Ketch Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill opens in the old Taco Stand later this Spring. With a more casual environment and ample parking, The Big Ketch is sure to give Coast a run for their money, if they last that long.

~D.B.A. Barbecue - Opening in neighborhood favorite VINE, D.B.A. has not done as well as some may think. After receiving relatively positive press at opening, the restaurant is rarely crowded, especially in comparison to The Original El Taco, its nearby neighbor. It may not help that they are off Highland Ave, without the street exposure, but apparently the food just ain't that good. Many locals seem to prefer Community Q in Decatur or Fox Bros. in L5P.

~Emerald Coast Coffee & Grille - As reader Andy stated shortly after opening "So, the closing of the AFC Starbucks doesn't tell us anything about the oversupply of coffee shop options in the terminus area where they are flanked by a Caribou on one side and a Starbucks on the other with a CFA and Flying Biscuit that both do pretty good coffee" There are a plethora of other and better coffee options in and around Terminus. I had one of their "smoothies," more like fluffed sugar, that didn't even taste good. I rarely see it busy or hear much talk about it- good or bad. I'm not the Wizard of Emerald City but I do see this place going under by year's end.

~Ixtlan Ultra Lounge - Opening in the closed Eros World Tapas Bar that was previously Pie Bar, Itxlan was doomed from the start. Bob Amick of Concentrics Restaurants was unable to make a go of the space with his Pie Bar concept and later less experienced restaurateurs have had little to show for their efforts. As I've said before, props to Amick for turning what was an abandoned bank building into a cool restaurant, but parking or the lack thereof made a visit to the space a logistical nightmare. The food at all the concepts has only been so-so with the big draw being the atmosphere. Apparently owners of the now shuttered Fishmonger in Sandy Springs are behind Ixtlan but they seem to be the least prepared or experienced of those who have occupied that space. Will Ixtlan make it till next spring? In a word, Ixnay.

~ La Paz - Having lost their liquor license months ago, the restaurant has yet to regain it. Reviews on Yelp have gone from 4-5 stars a year ago to single star in late February to now. Word is they don't even have a functioning dishwasher, which may have played a part in scoring a 76 on their recent health inspection. Once a favorite in the area, the food is just not that good and the assumption at this point is that they are only still in business on the strength of their catering business (where the lack of a liquor license is less important)

~Saskatoon - After finally opening in the swiftly shuttered Harry Bissetts Buckhead, the restaurant never seems busy and is not in the best of locations. The first franchised location for Greenville, South Carolina-based Saskatoon, the flagship is not nearly as popular as some have been made to think. This is not the right time for another steakhouse in Buckhead, especially such a niche market with elk, bison and ostrich offerings. Given current economic conditions and lack of activity at the restaurant, this restaurant will more than likely be extinct no later than the first quarter of 2011.

~Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft - After opening last November in what was my favorite SoBu eatery, Taurus, Tuk Tuk Thai loft has been anything but impressive, let alone busy. The second level restaurant went through a total makeover Charlie and Nan Niyomkul created successful restaurants in Nan Thai Fine Dining and Tamarind Seed at Colony Square but this newest concept may be a sign their magic touch has faded. Tamarind Seed at Colony Square took the place of repeated failed concepts by Here To Serve: Piri Piri and later, That's A Burger! A colleague of mine dined here shortly after opening and remarked it should be called "Yuk Yuk" (Yuck Yuck). The food is overpriced for being billed as "street food" and its just not as good as the Niyomkul's other concepts. Baroni's impending opening in the former Wolfgang Puck Express is sure to do more harm than good for this already struggling concept.

~Urban PL8 - Pangaea, Milk & Honey: this space is not meant for a restaurant. Try as many do to make it work, it does not have the space to do the number of covers necessary to make a go of it. I went to the opening and loved the nut burger and if the place were not so far off the beaten path, I think it could work, and might even exceed expectations. To rely on Turner employees and word of mouth marketing may work for Antico Pizza, but this place is in trouble and doomed.

~Yoeshi and One Cafe Blanc - Delayed in opening for months, Yoeshi and One Cafe Blanc lost me as a customer this week for good. I made multiple visits here myself in hopes of trying the food. Twice I was told that they were opening the following day. When I returned for my third time in 2 weeks, they were still kinda not so ready for business. I wanted to try the yogurt, that was "not yet tested" "coming soon." I finally got to try their now "tested" yogurt and to be honest, Costco has better tasting yogurt for less than half the price. With thousands of GSU students nearby within the three dorms, one would think there would be ample traffic to support this place or places as the case may be but I have my doubts. They are trying to be too much at once. From burgers to salads, crepes to burritos and eventually yogurt, it's just too much. Rather than do seven foods poorly, they should master 2 and simplify.

**********

~Harlem Bar (reader submission) - Located at 262 Edgewood Avenue, the Harlem Bar has reduced hours of operations from seven to just three (their website still reflects seven) Opening a new, independent restaurant in a still "emerging" area, Harlem Bar has little parking and not much hope for survival according to multiple readers.


Retail

~Bloomingdale's (Perimeter Mall) - A far cry from the offerings of New York or even Lenox, this store's service is trumped by even Chick-Fil-A. Bloomingdale's Perimeter has yet to meet expectations and is shrinking its saleable floor space almost as fast as new Tiger Woods mistresses came forward. I won't go into all the interactions I have personally experienced at this location but let's just say they leave much to be desired. Management has yet to wake up and acknowledge the issues that plague their store, and as such, the store's sales and reputation have suffered. If Federated wants to improve their bottom line, they will close this store no later than the first quarter of 2011.

~Barney's New York CoOp - Similar story to that of fellow Phipps retailer Jedal, Barney's is lucky enough to have deeper pockets by way of Istithmar, a private equity firm that purchased Barney's from Jones Apparel Group in 2007 for $825 Million. Once rumored to be on the map for a Barney's New York flagship, Atlantans have proven they can't support such high end and cutting edge designers by the lack of support and sales for even the CoOp. If this store is not closed by February 2011, I'll be surprised.

~Jedal - The first in a string of local merchants wooed to Phipps Plaza, there is little hope for their survival. They don't carry brands that many care or know about and they are not in the East Village of NYC. Atlantans know what they want and they buy it. Barney's is suffering from the same issue, though it has the corporate dollars to keep the door open and hope for improvement. Jedal, on the other hand, is trying to be the Dresscodes (shuttered Decatur boutique) of shoes and introduce Atlantans to designers they might not otherwise be familiar with. When Phipps discontinues its favorable rent incentives, its likely this store will be unable to stay. Given current market conditions, I'd say this is likely to occur by years end, maybe even early Fall.


Properties

While a number of hotels such as the W Downtown and Mansion on Peachtree were in or are currently in the process of foreclosure, it's doubtful any will permanently close. A change in ownership and possible management company are both possible outcomes. There is talk that the St. Regis is hurting and that the W Midtown may re-flag amidst the opening of the newly constructed Loews so close by.

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20 comments:

widmerpool said...

Saskatoon is the #1 Talk of the Town on Urbanspoon. Maybe that doesn't mean much.

Co-op hardly seems deserted. Do you have inside info?

Anonymous said...

Add to Death List:
Truva
EVOS
Thirsty Dog Tavern
RA Sushi

Atlantan99 said...

Hello Widmerpool,

Saskatoon may be talked about online but the emptiness of the restaurant's dining room on a daily basis is what's cause for concern. Parking is not easy, and it's not on Peachtree, instead at Pharr and Grandview, hidden. The food is quite good, they just have too niche a segment and a difficult location.

As for Barney's, yes, I do have insider info from numerous sources who confirm, the struggles of the Phipps location. Retail is tough, it's even worse if you're on the high end of the spectrum with some lines that have only a small consumer base.

Thanks for the comment

Atlantan99 said...

Anon,

You're submissions intrigue me.

Truva I'd heard nothing good about but I'd like to hope they can make that space work. When the economy picks up, that space, with so much around it, will do quite well.

EVOS has a pretty good product but a poor site selector it would seem. I've had a wrap and smoothie there, both good but its no fun finding a place to park at Sembler's Prado development and parking is nonexistent at their newer midtown location in Viewpoint. With F20 across the street, I imagine its tough. They just announced a new location in Roswell that has the potential to do better, as its in a . Americans are eating healthier and places like EVOS surely can carve out a niche in the market. Something in or around Peachtree Battle of the Disco Kroger would work well.

Thirsty Dog Tavern could be the wild card in that if its run well and the food it good, it may be a sleeper hit. With Fridays out down the road and Gordon Biersch down in Buckhead, TDT may vary well be able to fill a void in the area. The food doesn’t have to be spectacular, just good, which I'd like to think the experienced team they have in place is capable of. I give them till the summer to get a better read on their success or failure.

RA Sushi, I'm with you in disliking it, just not sure it's in trouble like others in the chain. Benihana owns the chain and has expanded it greatly in the past few years. A bad decision to locate in the Downtown at the Gardens in WPB may cost them in the long run. This location is basically six feet under as we speak. The food is just OK, but with RiRa and Piola as neighbors and Loews Hotel now open across the street, they may just make a go of it. I'm most looking forward to stk and stk out, not opening till the Fall but adding to the midtown options.

Thanks for the comment

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to Atlanta since August 2005, but in what areas has Bloomingdale's Perimeter reduced their sales floor space? I remember that the entire 3rd floor was for the home when I was last there. And you previously mentioned that the men's department had shrunk 30 percent.

Has this store never met expectations since opening in 2003 or has it over time seen a major decline in sales and service?

Atlantan99 said...

Anon,

While I can't say for certain that the Bloomindale's at Perimeter has NEVER met expectations, I doubt that is did for long if ever. Lenox is far superior in lines offered, size and in some departments, service. I've noticed a decrease in knowledgeable and for that matter helpful associates at both locations, but Perimeter is the worse of the two. What's worse is that senior management at Perimeter seems content with unhappy and dissatisfied customers.

On a recent visit, I'd say the men's department has now decreased by about 40% in saleable merchandise. Bkids, which was on the second level is now closed off and was relocated to the main level adjacent to luggage.

Thanks for the comment

wesley said...

you're dead wrong about DBA bbq.

i've been there twice and it was busy both times.

not to mention the bbq is some of the best in the city, with the only competition in my mind being fox bros and fatt matt's.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with EVOS in the Prado (if that is the location you were talking about). Panda Express at The Prado will also be gone soon. Another restaurant on the verge of closing down OTP has got to be Boneheads off Powers Ferry Rd.

The only place I disagree with is D.B.A. Barbecue.

I think Three Sheets in Sandy Springs is going to have a tough time as well in that location and there is not a market for that type of place in that area.

widmerpool said...

Evos isn't very good.

You have to be pretty bad to be sitting under two tall condos and be empty during dinner.

The staff is friendly. I feel bad but it's a poor product. Nobody likes Evos in any city. It seems like a a concept from 1997.

Jeff said...

Starting to wonder about Shaun's in Inman Park. It was d-e-a-d dead on a recent Friday night visit. Even the bar was quiet, while nearby Rathbun's was packed to the gills. The menu hasn't changed much in years (despite their laughable assertion that it changes daily) and the service is consistently mediocre. Doty has been paying too much attention to his side projects to focus on his flagship and it shows.

doinGood in my hood said...

Agreed about Urban Pl8. I, also, was at the opening and the food was pretty good. However, I've not been able to give it a second chance because I can't figure out what the hours are. My neighbors and I were just discussing this a few days ago; I've gone by on weeknights and weekday afternoons alike and it never seems to be open.

widmerpool said...

Bocado? No.

The other new ones? Yes.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

The other problem w/ Saskatoon IMHO is it's a pretty BIG space. If they were to actually fill all those tables one night they'd have a real problem. As it is, the number of empty tables kind of exacerbates things.

Sheesh. What a tough environment this is.

Anonymous said...

In my ten years here I don't think I've read worse reviews of a restaurant than with Saskatoon. Both the AJC and now just Bostock ripped it to shreds. I mean it's almost comical how bad these reviews are.

Anonymous said...

As an Atlantan, it absolutely makes me crazy that Atlanta cannot compete with Dallas on a retail level. Their luxury offerings far surpass ours. They have a flagship Barneys and seem to be doing fine.

Atlanta cannot even support a Co-op.

If the Streets of Buckhead ever opened, we would compete with Dallas' retail somewhat but as it is right now Atlanta cannot even support basic upscale couture.

Atlantan99 said...

Confirmation on closure of Harlem Bar (originally sent by email)

"Harlem Bar reduced its days from being open 7 days a week to only 3 days for the past 2 months.

262 Edgewood Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30303-3013
(404) 588-0014

Then finally last week closed the doors for good.

Servers at Rare Soul Tapas are reporting very few patrons there as well, and prepare for for a similar demise."

Anonymous said...

Where's Craft?

Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks Urbanspoon or Citysearch is a reliable source for what's good, then I got a bridge to sell you. The restaurant owners or their PR firms flood the boards with chatter pretending it's all the rage. As someone mentioned Saskatoon- the place is dead as dead can be. The only time they had half a full house was on soft opening night where it was free. All their food is from Sysco.

Thirsty Dog has 90% of Vita's old menu, when have you seen a pub with a dominant Italian fare? If Vita failed doing what they do best, what makes them think this will work? There's a dog park? It's the size of a porta-potty.

The problem is with the owner/management on a limited budget, spending most of their funds on PR firms (whom most don't believe in your product) hoping to generate buzz and traffic to recoup the expenditure and all the while they're hemorrhaging money faster than they can ring up a check.

There area dozens of small business without PR or marketing that are doing very well (ie: Antico). It's all via word of mouth from reputable sources/individuals. A restaurant with a PR firm is worthless, unless you have a cook that's been on TV or else you're SOL.

Anonymous said...

Emerald Coast seems to be doing well. Any updated predictions on them?

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon,

I agree they seem to be doing well of late. It will be interesting to see how they fare once the new deli and Subway open... I'll reassess as that point.

Thanks for the comment and for reading the blog.