Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cantina Says: Hasta La Vista, Buckhead!

Cantina has closed as of dinner service tonight.

Here To Serve Restaurants has decided to throw in the towel on its Mexican concept, Cantina Taqueria & Tequila Bar, at Terminus in Buckhead.  The restaurant opened as LOLA Bellini Bar & Restaurant in 2007, along with the rest of the Terminus development.  Lola began as an Italian restaurant, but in 2009 was relaunched to include Mediterranean fare as well.  The concept was relaunched and rebranded again in early 2010 to the current Cantina concept.  

I reported in 2012 that intel at that time suggested that Ray Schoenbaum, founder of Rio Bravo, was in talks to take over the space for a Rio Bravo reboot.  While there was discussion, the two sides never reached an agreement.  I'm told that there are no plans for Schoenbaum to re-enter the picture, and that despite being told by a hostess that Cantina was closing for "renovations," it has instead closed for good. To that end, Cousins, who owns and manages Terminus, reportedly plans to "rework" the space, likely for a retail or other similar tenant, likely not a restaurant, Rio Bravo or any other.  

Terminus as a project has not been the kindest to restaurateurs with Cantina being only the most recent failure at the development. Dressed, a build-your-own salad joint, closed at Terminus in late 2009. AquaKnox, an upscale seafood eatery, closed in early 2010, and Emerald Coast Coffee & Grille closed in mid 2011.  While not entirely attributable to the Terminus project, MF Buckhead, the gourmet sushi eatery from the Kinjo brothers, closed at Terminus in early 2012.   

Other businesses have also had issues at the center including All Wrapped Up, a gift wrap boutique, and The Grooming Lounge (and later William David Salon), all of which have closed at Terminus.  

III Forks and Cantina Laredo were announced to be opening at Terminus 200 in 2008 but never opened.  

Yogurberry, BrickTop's, The Flying Biscuit Cafe and Chick-fil-A represent the isolated "successes" at Terminus.  I say "successes," as only BrickTop's represents what I would consider a strong performing operation.  Chick-fil-A has limited hours and Yogurberry is sold by size where most consumers today want "self serve" FroYo by the ounce. The Flying Biscuit Cafe is, in my eyes, most likely to close next. The location and concept have struggled and the food has gone downhill over the past few years.  

Subway opened in place of Dressed in 2011, and well, it's Subway, so people go.  

Amura Sushi & Steak opened last year in place of MF and is reportedly not doing so well, while Industry Tavern opened in April in place of Emerald Coast.  

Jack's New Yorker Deli opened at Terminus 200 in 2011 and is easily one of the more popular / successful eateries at the project.  

While some say the logistics of Terminus make is unappealing to diners / customers, the parking situation is easily one of the least convenient / accessible in Buckhead today. 

John Schaffner of Buckhead View reported in April that Cousins was  preparing to add a 5,000 square foot, two story "in-fill addition" to Terminus.  The addition is meant to  "provide solution to a wind tunnel effect that renders the patio area unsuitable for outdoor dining as intended."

Is Cousins doing too little, too late, or will this addition save the remaining restaurants at Terminus?  How would you like to see the Cantina space repurposed?  Where do you go for Mexican food in Buckhead?


Anonymous said...

Would love to see Cantina sub-divided into smaller restaurant spaces. I don't believe the parking is tough to manage. Pull in, grab a ticket, park, take the elevator down. Done.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Atlantans need to quit being such bitches about parking. If you want easy parking, go to a small city or live in the burbs. Businesses shouldn't have to rely on easy parking to survive.

Anonymous said...

Atlantans do go elsewhere where parking is easy, which is one of the reasons why the restaurants at Terminus have not been successful. They vote with their pocketbooks. Did you not understand the article?

SB said...

To quote a famous New York City mayoral candidate, the Rent is Too Damn High! Restaurants at Terminus are jammed for lunch but the rental rate levels are such that they must also fill up for dinner. I don't mean be half full for dinner, I mean fill the restaurant for dinner.

Let's be honest, how many people reading this have ever thought: hey it's time for dinner, let's drive to Piedmont and Peachtree and go find a place to eat?

My point is they all do great for lunch and if the rental rates were more reasonable they'd be in business.

Sometimes for a building owner such as Cousins, it's better to have a vacant space with the possibility of leasing it for big $ than to give a tenant a major rent concession and lock in to leasing space for a low rate for any period of time.

Eli - Nice piece. I fwd to several people.

Carl Black said...

Remember when FB was open for dinner? Yeah, that was a nice option back in the day. Is that restaurant even busy anymore? The last time I went (it's been a few years), service was quite disappointing. The owner volunteered to send me a GC to make up for it but it never reached me. I later messaged to let him know, and I never heard another word. My main issue with the parking is about exiting. At certain times of the day, the garage can be backed up for several levels. There's just nowhere for folks to go, particularly with Tower Place still insisting upon keeping the private road closed in the afternoon. And, obviously the new construction next door doesn't help. Just imagine all those cars added to the mix. Or, don't.

Unknown said...

I live a little over a mile from there, so close, but not close enough to walk. I don't find parking to really be that much of an issue. It's not confusing at all. However, I thought Cantina was overpriced and the food underwhelming. Go a block down to Red Pepper. There is a reason they are thriving, and it's got nothing to do with parking.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why they can't making parking easier at Terminus. No one wants to pay for parking to go in and have a quick bite at a restaurant. And no one wants to go through the hassle of getting a ticket validated for free parking. It's the same issue at Lindbergh City Center. Everything has closed there because people will not go into a garage and have to deal with getting tickets validated. The companies running these two developments need to figure this out sooner rather than later. A 5 year old would have figure this out by now.

Dan said...

Honestly don't think it was due to the parking issue. It was much more to do with sub standard food and ridiculous wait times for service.

We literally couldn't go there anymore at lunchtime because we couldn't get in and out within the hour.

Industry which has opened just behind (in what is a worse location IMHO) seems to be doing great and will really thrive when the new apartments open next door.

AJ said...

Dealing with getting a ticket validated? "Hi, could you validate this?" Phew, that was tough.

So many of you would just be hermits in other cities. Or drive around until you ran out of gas. Free parking only exists in Monopoly.

Anonymous said...

I work in Terminus. Everybody is correct to some extent.

The food was overpriced and subpar. They took too long at lunch, making it less than ideal to grab a bite.

The place is a ghost town after 5pm. CFA and Subway close shop, so you'd think they would get some traffic by default. We would hit Cantina some nights to wait out traffic and be the ONLY PEOPLE there at 6pm on a Friday night.

Maybe when/if people move into the new apartments, things can pick up a little.

I am not sure Industry will last, either. I really like the concept but there only so many overpriced lunches a person can afford, so it's not a frequent place to stop.

I also will state with a resounding YES that nobody wants to come here for dinner as a destination. Parking on level 11 to get food? I'll pass. We have 300+ people in this office and maybe 3 live within walking distance.

Are people living in Midtown, Downtown, Alpharetta, Decatur coming here for dinner? No way.

Bud Jennings said...

I have lived at Terminus for five years, and I strongly believe that the problem is simply the quality of the operations. Amura was the most amateurish operation I have seen, and Cantina was by far the worst operation Catherall has ever sponsored. That Bricktops is doing okay speaks volumes; it is about 70% as good as Houston's.

The only exception to the above commentary is MF Buckhead, which was stylish but wildly epensive and over- extended after taking on space for private parties that never materialized. Having said all that, Cousins is also a big part of the problem. They wanted restaurants to sell condominiums. Having sold them, they now show restaurant tenants no mercy; that is how the Aquaknox space comes to now be an appliance showroom.

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