This past summer vacation, we dined at a restaurant, Busch’s, on the Jersey Shore that has been serving hungry customers since 1882.
When an eatery predates refrigeration, you know it has something special going for it. Keeping things cold is only one challenge. They also have to keep up with the times. Your great-grandparents might have enjoyed pulling up in a Studebaker and diving into the Thursday Prime Rib special with a creme de menthe parfait for dessert, but that generation has either died off or is gumming whipped peas these days.
While I could wax poetically about Busch’s, this column is really about the inability of restaurants to survive even a few years in Fort Mill. The list of places closed in the past two years alone is lengthy: Sayago’s, Liu Liu’s, Market Street Pizza, Yorkmont Cafe, Johnny K’s, Sweet Pepper’s Deli and the place that was where Zaxby’s is now had such a brief stint that the name never even made a dent in my cranium.
The life expectancy is so short that I’m loathe to ever mention another one that I like in this column again because they seem to shutter their doors before the ink is even dry. I don’t expect every place to succeed, but it would be easier to take if all of them failed on their own merits.
I have a feeling that’s not always the case.
I know it isn’t easy to manage a restaurant and to keep it filled with patrons. It is actually a huge undertaking made even more difficult by unreasonable lease contracts. To my untrained eyes, it seems that filling space with any type of lease agreement is a heck of a lot better than keeping it vacant, but then again, there are several reasons I’m not a landlord. Yet time and again, the owners of closing restaurants will mention the rent as being a contributing factor to their demise. That’s why even places that appear to be crowded have a hard time staying afloat, especially in high-rent districts like Baxter Village.
A good restaurant draws people to the area that it is near. A closed restaurant takes up unused space and provides no traffic to the immediate area. I’d have to believe that some middle ground could be reached just to keep places filled, but I’m not Donald Trump. I’ve also never had a property go into bankruptcy, unlike that well-coiffed magnate.
I confess I love eating out, but even in a week where I spend my money wildly, I’m probably only leaving the house three times for meals. When business colleagues come to town, we inevitably treat them in Charlotte, sending their money not just out of town, but out of state, too. This makes me part of the problem. Businesses get lured by subsidies, so perhaps we should do that for restaurants as well.
Maybe it is simply the circle of life effect in a dog-eat-dog world, but if the current trend holds up, we’ll all go hungry. Just some food for thought.