CBC Radio One was talking about the cursed restaurant phenomenon yesterday. A timely topic for Hallowe’en. The curse involves numerous restaurants going through a death knell in one location. I can’t speak to the 1809 W. 1st Avenue curse, but it’s gone through three restaurants in three years, I believe.
I can speak to other cursed areas, or deadzones as I call them When I worked in Kits there was a deadzone on the north side of the west 2000 block. I don’t know what was there originally but it was right in the heart of numerous clothing stores, restaurants and other commercial venues. Le Grec, an extremely successful Greek tapas (or mezes) restaurant started on Commercial Dr. They decided to expand and move to the larger area in Kits, 2041 W. 4th Ave.
Well, they lasted a year maybe two. Their fame didn’t seem to travel and the restaurant was only ever partially filled. After that, there came a string of restaurants, all suffering the same fate. For a short time the location became some sort of import store, which also succumbed to the deadzone fate. At some point the front of the place was renovated to open it up but the restaurant that went in also fizzled away. Then Hell’s Kitchen went in, with massive renovations and success at last. Maybe it’s because their name includes hell or they sold their souls or that they sell pizzas both eat-in and take-out but they have had a longer success than any predecessor.
The place where Le Grec began on 1447 Commercial Drive, had been an Italian restaurant in its heyday. Then it had sat empty for years until Le Grec moved in. After they went to Kits, Bukowski’s moved in. Maybe Bukowski’s had a heyday with musicians and readings and I seem to recall something about it but it slowly died down. It still drew people in but it never seemed full. I believe they had a fairly good run of years before their eventual slide.
After they faded away another restaurant went in. They painted the walls a sort of bloody red and had some type of Asian fusion food thing going on. They even had bluesy musicians in there. But even though they’d only taken a month or two for renos, nobody came. I went in a few times the food wasn’t bad, but people avoided the place like the plague. I think there gets to be a point where a place can’t generate clientele and then anyone going in sees the emptiness and changes their minds.
The unique aspects of this location is that it’s smallish and three tiered. The top tier was loungelike and restauranty. The middle tier was always restaurant and the bottom tier, farthest from street level, was the bar.
After the Asian fusion place, another place with something like soul Seoul food took over but didn’t even make it a year. The restaurant sat for a bit and then underwent a massive renovation, where the people who own the Five Point, a very successful sports bar/restaurant on Main St., took it over. The Charlatan changed the layout and put the bar up front on street level with big sports TV screens. They expanded the middle section and kept a bar/lounge area at the bottom. The red walls stayed but were toned to dried blood red with more subdued lighting. The sports TVs alone have kept the Charlatan popular along with pretty good food. So they too have broken the deadzone curse.
There seem to be several things that curse a restaurant. It could be a combo of bad management, decor, food, location, management or all of these. It takes breaking the perceived mindset of the public who may place an aversion on the area from past experiences. Whatever the case, some restaurants really struggle to get going in certain locations. I don’t think anyone is standing out front and saying, curse you 1809 W. first. After all, what would be the point? But the public will also need to take the plunge when something new opens up and the restaurateurs will have to be open to criticisms to keep the place going.