What the story with the Providence's Barnsider closing?
I saw in the ProJo that the Barnsider is on the auction block. We had our wedding rehersal dinner there and it is sad to see it go.
Barnsider was one of my favorites just for the fact of it's easy access location, the consistency of it's traditional "New England" food (no surprises) and excellent service. I had heard (through some of the employees) last November that there was a chance they would be closing this summer - and they did.
Apparently, their long-term lease expired June 30, They were "miles apart" in negotiations with their landlord (who also owns quite a bit of commercial property on Thayer Street), and began looking for another location in the Warwick area and South County area since last winter, to no avail. Father's Day (June 15) was their last day open, as the current lease was expiring in two weeks, and they did not wish to go on a month-to-month tenancy (in which you are at the mercy of the landlord),
With no place to go, they left most of their fixtures and equipment behind to pay off the rest of their debts. I believe that is why this is all on 'the auction block' now. There are rumours that some of the old staff (the manager, the longtime waiters, etc) are trying to pull something together to open a restaurant ...but it won't be anytime soon.
Barnsider joins a growing list of restaurants that are gone from the local restaurant scene: Raphael's, L' Epicureo, Big Fish, the much anticipated Carmine's, and now it looks like Bravo as well (according to todays ProJo, they are in bankruptsy and trying to sell rather than close). It's a tough economic market out there, and I have a feeling we'll be losing quite a few more in the months to come.
You never know... They could have had a 20 year lease that was a bargain in today's dollars... But overall, I agree. There's a lot of vacant retail space and I don't know how owners can let it sit fallow so long...
Regarding Bravo, I think that had more to do with the financials of the owner than the financials of the restaurant. My (knowledgeless) bet is that it sells to someone and sticks around.
Regarding the other restaurants lost (especially L'Epicureo and Big Fish), I don't think we lost much there. The restaurant business is a volitile one, and we're in a volitile economy... Many would argue that Aspire (if not Rick's Roadhouse) more than makes up for the loss...
I was really sorry to hear that Bravo's might be in trouble. I think that's a great little restaurant and I always found the prices reasonable given the quality of the food. That location seems to be problematic for some reason, although Gracie's seems to do well just down the street.
'Bravo' was excellent when they first opened under the original owner. I think he expaneded too quickly by opening a second in EG and paying less ateention to Providence (expaneded despite the fact that he was having personal problems). He fled to Greece (as proabably everyone has heard the story by now) and his restaurant manager bought the place - that's when I noticed a big downhill change in the restaurant. After a few bad experiences I never returned (as I have heard the same from many friends and colleagues). Now it's in the hands of 'lawyers' which is never a good sign for a restaurant.
As for Barnsider, when it comes to leases and commercial property, an empty building always allows for a tax write-off, as well as other 'write-offs'. He can keep this empty for as along as he wishes or until the economy bounces back (though I'm sure someone will grab it soon - probably turn it into a nightclub) - it's really not costing him a thing.