Yesterday, Eater.com reported three restaurant closures downtown: Devin Tavern, Archipelago, and Greenwich Steak & Burger. I have strong opinions about these restaurants, as all three are within walking distance of my office.
It’s easy to blame these failures on the economy, but that would mask the real story. Even in a booming economy, restaurants fail all the time. If there were no recession, perhaps one or two of these places would have hung on a while longer, and perhaps ultimately survived. Still, you can’t ignore management mistakes that led to their demise.
When I visited Devin Tavern on a weekday evening two years ago, there was no recession, but even then the large space was nowhere close to full. They fired the chef the following spring. An Eater Deathwatch came in June of last year, when the place was still not packing them in. I liked the place, but it never caught on with the neighborhood crowd—recession or not.
Archipelago was simply awful. Most of this town’s critics didn’t review it, which I assume was an act of kindness. I am not a believer in cursed restaurant spaces, but Hudson Square is not a neighborhood that attracts much foot traffic. People have to want to go there, and Archipelago didn’t give them a reason. Neither did the previous occupant, Dani.
The failure of Greenwich Steak & Burger is harder to explain, as it was comparatively inexpensive, and I thought the food was at least decent. But in a restaurant-rich neighborhood, perhaps “decent” wasn’t good enough. In the first few months after I posted my review, it got a very high number of search-engine hits (by my standards), so apparently people were interested in the place, but it never caught on.
We’re going to see more failures after the New Year. The economy naturally has something to do with it, but you need to look beneath the surface to see why. Every failure is its own story, and usually conceptual mistakes or poor execution are at least partly to blame.