Elected officials aren’t the only ones subject to brief stints in the capital city.
Avenue Eat & Drink, a popular downtown eatery on East Park Avenue just blocks from the Capitol, has indefinitely shut down, according to owner and operator Chris Clark. Clark said the location “hopefully” could be up and running again soon — perhaps under the same name — but financial woes forced Clark to file bankruptcy on what’s evolved into one of a few staple eateries for anyone looking to grab a bite downtown.
Avenue and Clark in late May were sued for defaulting on a cash advance, according to court records. That resulted in Clark, a veteran of the service industry and longtime Tallahassee restaurateur, bankrupting the business, although he told Florida Politics he has faith in its redemption.
But Avenue’s closing isn’t isolated, which seems to point toward future troubles for anyone looking to cater to the intimate corridors in the heart of Tallahassee. Nearby restaurants Fat Noodle and The Southern Public House, owned by Roger Unger, announced earlier this week they’d too be shutting their doors. Brew’d Awakening, a now-closed coffee shop, recently couldn’t make the cut downtown as well.
Clark said fluctuations of work in the capital city makes for inconsistent business. Legislators and interested parties come for the legislative sessions and the committee weeks leading up to them, and all but desert the city after their work’s finished. It’s cyclical; when they’re in town, business is good, but when they leave, he estimates business drops by 65 percent.
“It’s not a very business-friendly environment,” Clark said.
Further complicating the problem is the inconsistency of session dates. When legislators convene earlier, as they did this year and plan to do again in 2020, “it makes it very difficult for businesses to get through summer,” Clark said.
“[Session] drives the economy downtown,” Clark added. “I wish [lawmakers] were here full-time.”
Clark also pointed to projects downtown that could have deterred business altogether. Among them: the recent construction of the new Florida State University School of Entrepreneurship and additions to the DoubleTree hotel on Adams Street, which resulted in the closure of a popular block on Adams Street stretching between Park and College avenues.
“The downtown revitalization is a slow process,” Clark said.
Avenue’s doors have been shut for a little more than two weeks. A sign outside the restaurant reads, “Closed For Renovations.” The restaurant’s website claims it will be open by July 13. But that’s not a given, according to Clark.
Still, he has high hopes for the location and doesn’t want recent financial shortcomings to be a defining legacy for Avenue.
“A whole new look, new menus, and some fantastic improvements to the front of house as well as the back of house. Keep on the lookout for our new website which is now under construction,” a post on Avenue’s Facebook page reads.