It’s been a tough time for Tallahassee restaurants

by Tallahassee Table
The hospitality industry’s summertime blues has arrived early this year, with three restaurants closing in nine days.

This isn’t something we want to talk about but perhaps we should. We’ve recently had at least three restaurants announce they were closing or closed during the last week in May. These businesses may have different reasons for closing. Regardless, we’re sad to see them go.

The storm, inflation and server shortages are among the factors that have hurt, we’re told. Losing Mother’s Day business hurt. Many places that haven’t closed are trying to survive.

‘We are all hanging on’

“I can tell you from a business standpoint.. supplies are outrageous, ppl are spending less, wages have increased, rent is crazy, and did I mention supplies are outrageous!” Jennifer Young, owner of TC Bakery, wrote in a comment responding to our Facebook post. “Cakes are a luxury at this point and competing with the big box stores that can provide the same product for less is more attractive. The storm just did what COVID did which was fully expose what’s really going on. We are all hanging on by a thread honestly.”

For some, there was no more hanging on.

The word was that the Midtown taqueria, Taco Republik, had closed on May 29 but now there’s a sign on the door that states they’re closed for renovations and will reopen in a few weeks. It’s in the same shopping center as Sliders – A Sandwich Revolution, which just closed this week as well. Sliders offered creative smashed burger combos and was owned by the McLeods, who own the downtown fine dining restaurant, Savour.

Sliders featured a classy Colonial decor paired with creative smash burgers and sandwiches. Photo / Tallahassee Table

In his post, Drew McLeod wrote: “Our vision was to offer Tallahassee an old-world bougie ambience, with a warm, welcoming, fast-casual option, where instead of cement floors, metal chairs, and bare walls, we warmly welcomed and embraced our guests with a cozy fireplace, a mahogany library filled with era relics, and our nation’s history honored and on display. …

A family business. The McLeod family worked together to create their restaurant, Sliders. Photo credit / Sliders

We may be back, perhaps north of I-10, one day… for what is a “no” for now is not a “no” for never, and certainly not a “no” for nothing.”

Takko has closed its branch in Market Square but will continue to operate on Magnolia Drive. Photo credit / Takko

A branch of the small restaurant chain, Takko – Tallahassee Market Square, announced on May 28 that it had shut its doors, though the restaurant’s location at 218 S. Magnolia Dr. will remain open. The restaurant pairs Korean ingredients with Mexican staples like burritos and tacos.

Burrito Boarder was hit hard during the May 10 tornadoes, a final straw for the business. Photo credit / Burrito Boarder

Other recent closures include Burrito Boarder, which had been in business for 12 years, and was badly damaged during the storm.

From the owners: “We had a great run but at this time we are unable to meet the challenges that face us running our restaurant in the area it is in, and in the current economic environment. Simply put, we had a rough season and as we were already heading into an unsure off season, then disaster hit at the worst time possible. Because of this, we ran out of money and had no way to refill the coffers in time to stay afloat….We love you all and thank you for an amazing 12 years.”

Seinyard Rock Landing offered seafood by the water. The location at the Wildwood Golf Course will remain open. Photo credit / Seinyard.

The Seineyard Rock Landing closed its five-year location after learning their lease would not be renewed. The seafood specialists will still be cooking at their Wildwood Golf Course location.

Burger fans were disappointed when Vertigo closed in March.

Vertigo Burgers & Fries closed in March. The hamburger destination was the last Tallahassee restaurant owned by restaurant giants, David and Elizabeth Gwynn. They had already closed their dining destination, Cypress Restaurant, and popular breakfast/lunch spot, Grove Market Cafe.

Waterworks, a beloved, offbeat bar in Midtown, closed its doors in early 2024.

In January, loyal fans said goodbye to the quirky and venerable Midtown tiki bar, Waterworks. Owner Don Quarello launched the original incarnation in 1992. When it closed, writer Mark Hinson wrote in the Tallahassee Democrat: “It was a bar where jazz cats would jam one night, a classical outfit would play the next and a surf band wearing monkey masks would take the stage on Saturday nights. The recent Tiki Tonk nights featured a band churning out hillbilly-charged country-fried rock.”

Like so many others, Mark said he was “heartbroken.”

Amanda Morrison and her husband, Gus Corbella, opened their wine shop, tasting room, retail and event space, three years ago in the historic Gallies Hall on Adams Street in downtown Tallahassee. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Poco Vino is saying goodbye to its historic brick and mortar location on Adams Street and launching two other ventures — Poco Vacays (taking clients to various wine regions) and Poco Wine Events (creating wine dinners and pop-up events) but we’ll miss its downtown presence. The shop also brought a much-needed retail element to downtown and was a wonderful event space.

The House of Music had planned to cut back on its hours but after an outpouring of support, is going to push forward. Photo credit / House of Music

On May 20, The House of Music Tallahassee announced that it was suspending its regular hours and only opening for special events. But on May 29, owner Russ Pangratz posted on Facebook: “Although not completely out of the woods, we’re reopening this week with some exciting news and a belief that, with your support, we will be here for a while.”

HOM is collaborating with  Solle’s Pizza, which will be serving its pies and pasta dishes at the venue. The post mentions that HOM has offered space to the folks from the Mickee Faust Club, whose building in Railroad Square Art District, was destroyed during the tornadoes on May 10. Sounds like a great idea.

Michael Robinson specialized in signature hot dogs from around the country at City Dogs Cafe, which was hit hard by construction on Railroad Avenue and then tornado damage. Photo credit / City Dogs Cafe

The tornadoes were the last straw for Michael Robinson, owner of City Dogs Cafe, at 903 Railroad Ave. He had already been facing big obstacles, and had to cut the restaurant’s hours, due to the construction on the avenue. The storm did so much damage he decided to close. Michael still owns Ma’s Diner at 6668 Thomasville Rd. in the Northeast.

Pineappetit, and other restaurants in the Railroad Square Art District, have opened their doors after massive tornado damage but there is still much work to be done in the artsy enclave. Photo credit / Pineappetit

Right now, we’re still worrying about our restaurants in the Railroad Square Art District. Halisi Africa, Pineappetit and Flamingoz A Taste of Miami have reopened but need your support. Happy to learn that Sweet Boozy Cakes Bakery and Cafe, in the former Crum Box Gastgarden, is on the mend and should reopen soon. As of this publication, Railroad Square is planning to open on June 7 for First Friday to support the businesses that are open.

Chatarras Restaurant, which specializes in huge burger and hot dog combinations, posted a sign saying it is temporarily closed. Fans are hoping it will reopen soon. Photo / Tallahassee Table

Chatarras Restaurant. Authentic street food, which opened last summer, has a sign that states the Venezuelan restaurant is temporarily closed. Chatarras’ owner, Dr. Jesus Lamas, is an emergency room veterinarian. He opened the restaurant, which specializes in burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches, partly to help provide a place of employment for family members he has been trying to bring from Venezuela. His cousin cooks the burgers, dogs and chicken to order. I truly hope this closure is temporary.

The storm had a financial impact on a lot of restaurants, especially those counting on Mother’s Day business, but what else has been responsible for these closings? Inflation, the storm and shortage of servers could be factors. Summer is always slow and it’s not unusual to have some places move on before business gets worse, but this seems like a lot.

Questions, questions

Are we seeing a dangerous trend? Are you still going out to eat? Can we just blame location or inflation? What are you looking for when you want to dine out? Where do you dine out now? Any advice for restaurateurs who want your business?

If you’re a restaurateur, what would you like the public to understand about what it’s like for the hospitality industry right now? Is it still hard to find servers — and servers, what is working in the industry like now? Has it changed? Customers, what do you expect from your servers? Servers, what are your rights?

Facing the challenges

“We are a family and veteran/law enforcement owned bakery in our first year in business in Midtown and even in that time have seen food costs rise significantly- really paying retail prices v wholesale,” the owners of Ground Ops Roastery & Bakery wrote in a comment on our Facebook post. “So many of the factors mentioned in comments here matter and are relevant, so thanks to all who have shared their thoughts and experiences! We love fellow locally owned and operated businesses and now we understand firsthand the effort it takes every day to open the doors. Really sad to see so many doors closing!”

Several readers noted that they are unfamiliar with the restaurants that closed. Getting recognition isn’t easy, restaurateurs said.

“We have done everything, tv, radio, social media, local events, 16 years open, first hit on google, and I still run into people that don’t know about us,” wrote the owners of Habanas Boardwalk.

Gregory Cohen, owner of Lofty Pursuits, noted that there are more restaurant locations in Tallahassee than years ago.

“We physically have more restaurants that have gone in where none have before for a larger number of locations overall. Many of these seat a lot more than others like B.J.’s and the new steak place that will open in market square. These take even a bigger share of available stomachs,” Gregory wrote. “Are there more stomachs to eat all the food from this supply? No. Tallahassee’s growth has been outstripped in my opinion by restaurant growth. In a normal time, when a restaurant closes another opens, this is normal. But right now, even if people were eating the same out they have always eaten, the the slice of the pie for each restaurant is smaller, some will not survive.”

Share your thoughts

Thank you in advance for your insight. And thank you to all these restaurant owners, chefs and hospitality staffs who do work so hard to elevate Tallahassee’s dining scene.

Feel free to comment here, email me @ [email protected] or check the very thoughtful comments about this information on my Facebook page.

You may also like

Leave a Comment