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Cursed Restaurant Locations

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.

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Cruise Ship Comparison: Norwegian and Carnivale

I have now had the opportunity to take two four-day cruises; one to the Bahamas and one repositioning cruise up the coast from LA to Vancouver. These cruises have confirmed that I am not in any way a cruise person.There is just way too much time on a boat than out seeing the sites. If you like doing things in a hotel, that’s what a cruise ship is; a grand hotel with shows, casino, bars and restaurants, and a small pool/hot tub.

The two cruise ships were Carnivale and Norwegian for the Bahamas and North American coast respectively. The Carnivale ship was older and as one of my friends said about the decor, “It looks as if a gay fashion designer took acid and threw up all over the place.” The decor was very date and garish with green, yellow and gold decorations (and then tacky Christmas decorations on top of that). Chairs and design overall were date. Norwegian’s cruise ship (the Sun) is only ten years old and is fairly tasteful with wood accents.

Both ships have small outdoor pools and hot tubs (I think). Carnivale had assigned seating for dinners. The problem with this was that you were always sat with the same people and whether you got along or not, you didn’t get a chance to meet new people. However, the meals were excellent and definitely top of the line in desserts and in flavors. The other choice was the ongoing buffet for late night munchies or fast food stuff, which was mediocre.

Norwegian boasted thirteen restaurants, freestyle dining (you sit when you want to) and lobster. The reality turned out to be five restaurants that had an extra cover charge ($10-$25) and then on top of that there was often an extra $10 for any food of quality on the menu. Three restaurants seemed to be the same buffet, which was mediocre, with two (the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas) having the same menu. There was a pasta/pizzeria buffet (with dinners in the evening) and a Mexican tapas bar with only light items. When you count up the restaurants available without spooning out more money, the number goes way down. Oh, and lobster, well yes, they did have it at the other main restaurant. I had to send mine back because it was mushy (and half a tail). Other meals were dry or bland, with a shrimp bisque being so salty it was inedible. Desserts were kind of what you’d expect Mom to cook. Overall, Norwegian’s food was disappointing and middle of the road.

Extra costs are something cruise lines don’t always tell you about up front. Norwegian certainly did not advertise they had restaurants asking extra charges on their website. They also charge $12/day per person for gratuities to the staff while Carnivale charged $10/day (that cruise was about three years ago so prices may have changed). Booze is never included but Norwegian also added in an “autogratuity.”

Carnivale’s entertainment contained a song and dance number and maybe other things I don’t remember. All their bars had the same 70/80’s music and nothing but rap being played in the one disco every single night. Most of their “socials” saw no one going to them and the music was not that good.

Norwegian had a preview night of a comedian, some music and a woman gymnast doing a nautical number using the silks (two long pieces of fabric suspended from the ceiling in which various moves, spins and drops are done). It was beautiful, well executed and worth watching again. On the second night they had a musical adaptation of Peter Pan (called “Pan”) which had few words and was very well done in dance. I enjoyed it a lot. The following night had a guy from Vegas (George Solomon) who had a great voice but it was very old style Vegas, and a magician from Montreal, Jean-Paul (not sure if that’s his last name or not) who mixed comedy with his tricks. He was good even if he played up the creepy stalker jokes just a bit too much.

The musicians in the various bars, including a lovely Observation Deck (enclosed) with views of the ocean, were good and varied, compared to Carnivale’s mediocre music. Norwegian did seem to have better success in social gatherings, including people in the disco. This included having the comedian in there one night and having the dancers come in to kick off another party, mostly to sell more alcohol.

The staterooms weren’t bad in either ship. However the beds were more spacious in Norwegian but uncomfortable. I tend to have back issues and though my back had been okay before the trip I was definitely in pain afterwards. Both ships had casinos, duty frees and art galleries. Having been duped into the free piece of art in the Carnivale cruise (which meant I couldn’t carry it away but they had to ship it for an exorbitant cost of $40–I told them to keep it) I steered away from Norwegian’s, especially after they said they were the originators. Nothing, truly, is free.

All in all, it wasn’t anything I’d do again. I’d rather fly to the place and stay in a land hotel where I can get out when I want. And if I want a casino I’ll just go to one. I can see how it would be good for families and for elderly people who may get tired faster. For some people, they loved the games, and the whole gestalt water hotel experience, but for me it was being stuck in one place too long.

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