Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I've never had a problem downtown. I've even had some good meals!

I never ate at the City Park Grille.  Two weeks after they opened, I read that the executive chef quit.  That's a major red flag that something's wrong, so I stayed away.  I wasn't surprised to see the business close- I was just surprised it happened so quickly.

There have been a few general theories kicking around about City Park Grille's demise:
1.  Downtown is a graveyard/wasteland.  Nothing succeeds downtown.
2.  Worcester is hostile to new enterprises, especially high end dining.
3.  It's the City Manager's/City Council's/Dual Tax Rate's fault.
4.  There wasn't any parking.
5.  It's the Curse of the Nipmucs.

I don't agree with any of these theories, although I am keeping an open mind about the Curse of the Nipmucs.  City Park Grille failed because they were supposedly paying $15,000 a month for rent.  If any business is going to succeed with that sort of rent, they need paying customers.  The only way to draw customers is with a great idea, and great execution (like the Armsby Abbey, Bocado, and 86 Winter which are within a few blocks of City Park Grille).  From everything I've heard, City Park Grille failed on both ends, much like McFadden's did before them.  If the food isn't good, people won't pay.  Rent doesn't get paid, and businesses close.  That's the reality of the food business, especially if the owner doesn't have the cash reserves to ride out the first year and improve the business.

I don't understand how the City Manager and City Council were liable for City Park Grille's demise.  They don't write private business plans.  It's not their job.  Should the City Council bail out any failing business on Main Street?  Should they advise them on how to properly run a restaurant?  Should they eat out at that business every day of the week to keep them in business?  Should they be out with flags and cones pointing potential diners to the large parking garage a half block away from City Park Grille?
Perhaps it's a matter of perception  (read the comments for more laughable ignorance.)  I go through downtown every day, whether I am on foot, bike or bus.  I've never witnessed a drug deal.  I've never been mugged.  I've never been solicited by a prostitute.  I've never been threatened.

I would love to see street vendors and performers downtown (how great would it be to have a Completo from Chris while sitting at a picnic table on a Saturday afternoon?).  I'd love to see businesses downtown, but I know that businesses will only go where there is profit.  As long as local people can't find good jobs for fair wages, downtown will suffer.  Until we fix Worcester's economy, schools, and housing, a better life and a better downtown will be a pipe dream away from fruition.


Nicole said...

I liked the "I blame Woodstock" theory for the downfall of downtown Worcester best of all.

My concern is that -- in the demolition of the mall and the construction of various buildings -- we (or, the city government, or whomever) need to make sure that the area is a little more appealing to pedestrians. Not the pedestrians like you and me (who are not afraid to go downtown, and, well, who will actually go there) -- but the people who need a little guidance (or encouragement) to get from, say, the Common to the Canal District.

That's something I see in places I visit and want to revisit: I want to park my car as soon as possible and just wander around for hours. And I want downtown Worcester to be like that, too.

Anonymous said...

Curse of the Nipmucs... not convinced eh?
Well I know an ole Medicine Man who says otherwise.

Seriously. Its quite obvious the owners lacked business savvy.

Just goes to show the quality of business people we got around here.

Seems the only way to make a buck around here, instead of earning it, is to make it by paying less taxes.

As for Nicky's post. Um... girl, you actually want to wander around downtown for hours? You're a barrel of fun aren't you?

Sean Dacey said...

Apparently the Nipmucs have better juju than Chief Manhattan.

Personally, I think it's the Curse of the Rapacious Land Developer. It's been happening to downtown for almost 3 centuries now.