Last week we reported that restaurant business was not as bleak as it could have been in 2009 given the sorry state of the economy. In just the last week, however, we’ve noticed a few more empty storefronts and a few more “For Lease” signs, causing us to take stock of just how much open restaurant space is out there. There’s a lot, but not all of it was generated this year. Plenty of places have been sitting vacant for multiple years.
In early October of 2009, Wild Greens owner Thomas Vangeloupos and his wife, Judie, told C-VILLE it was time to slow things down. The couple closed up shop later that month.
The latest casualty is the short-lived Arirang on Fontaine Avenue. Recall that the Korean and Japanese restaurant opened in the old Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse in the fall of 2008. The 5,600-square-foot location is now listed for sale or lease. (We assume the original cuckoo clocks would convey.)
Going back chronologically, Rivals Sports Bar & Grill on Rio Road, which closed under a bit of controversy last month, is for sale as a business for $375,000. That comes with occupancy of 10,000 square feet, several flat screen TVs, and that giant road sign just perfect for advertising karaoke.
A search of Charlottesville’s craigslist.com revealed at least three local restaurant businesses offered for sale in the last month, including an anonymous location listed as the “One of Charlottesville’s best established restaurants” for $250,000, Tiffany’s Seafood in Seminole Square Shopping Center for $91,000 and another no-namer referred to as a “Cville Restaurant-Bar” for $30,000.
In the North Wing of the Barracks Road Shopping Center, the old location of Wild Greens, which closed at the end of October, still sits vacant. And though we’ve noticed a lot of folks checking out the old Rita’s Ice location on University Avenue (which has been empty since Rita’s failed to reopen after the holidays in 2008 after less than a year in business) so far, no new tenants have set up a shop.
The prime West Main Street storefront where short timer and Richmond outpost Si Tapas established itself in the old Starr Hill Brewery also has been vacant since Si closed Rivals-style (i.e., abruptly and amid rumors of legal difficulties) after a year in business in October.
Other longtime vacant spots around town include the old Ponderosa Steakhouse on Pantops and Great Wall Restaurant in the Seminole Square Shopping Center.
And in the category of perpetual beacons of economic blight, there are the sprawling, over-designed and idiosyncratic (read: marketing nightmares) Fuel Co. on East Market Street (3,658 square feet and three gas pumps listed for $1.1 million ) and Asian Buffet on Seminole Trail (7,835 square feet listed for $2.6 million). Both have been vacant for several years, and likely won’t find new tenants until, in the case of the former, the next Patricia Kluge-who-wants-to-take-over-the-world-with-a-unique-gas station/uppity convenience store/wine shop/ upscale bistro comes along, and in the case of the latter, the next, well, Asian buffet comes along.
Great deal at Clifton Inn
Now that we’re in the post-holiday winter doldrums, the restaurant business is likely to be dead for everyone, but at least one local establishment is taking the season in stride. This year The Clifton Inn has re-launched its weekly cooking demo dinners with Chef Dean Maupin every Wednesday in January and February, starting next week. And starting next week, every Monday and Tuesday in January is 50 percent off all restaurant menu items.