Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Gratify, Reef Road, Hamburger Heaven Close Their Doors

July 5th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Gratify American Gastropub closes this Sunday, July 15. /photo courtesy Dinemag.net

Look for a blow-out party on Sunday to mark the last time Gratify will have their doors open to the sidewalk on Datura Street. “Sunday became known as our big crowd day, so we thought we’d go out then,” said Gene Playter, owner.

“It’s a tough decision,” he said, talking about closing the restaurant he’s run for three years. “But you’ve got to know when to say when.”

It was more than any one thing that precluded the end of the casual restaurant that served an American gastropub menu in downtown West Palm Beach, but the concept itself may have worked against its success.

“We were too pub-ish – too casual in our approach,” Playter said. “We were too small for the dining menu we offered. People would come to the bar and drink and have chips or small bites, but we weren’t attracting the diners.”

A consistent downtown population also was problematic. “There are a lot of restaurants downtown now, and to spread everyone so thin hurts us all. There were a lot of condos built and they’re struggling to get renters, discounting their prices just to fill apartments.” Playter lives downtown and sees this in his own building, he said.

Season plays a part, too. “West Palm is more seasonal than Delray or Fort Lauderdale. Some with big money behind them can weather the seasonality, but those of us who are individual operators – it’s tougher on us.”

Playter’s been in the area for some time, returning after a stint consulting with corporate restaurant groups in Boston and Chicago, as well as in South Florida. This is his second restaurant in downtown West Palm – he helped open the Samba Room when he was with the E Restaurant Group.

He’s not giving up on downtown, but is already working on another concept for the area that should be ready by fall, he said. “The best thing about being here for three years is that you learn from your mistakes. We know we made quite a few, false starts and so on, but you learn and hope you can overcome them the next time. Sometimes you learn the hard way, and things don’t work out – it’s reality.”

Hamburger Heaven closes for now; owner promises new location

The landmark retro Hamburger Heaven has closed. The diner-like spot on South County Road was where the town of Palm Beach went for its hamburger and malt fix for decades. The restaurant opened in the mid 1940s, and has changed hands a few times therein.

In a statement on their Facebook fan page, current owner Cynthia Rosa wrote that eight months of unsuccessful back and forth with the landlord resulted in the glass doors and windows being pasted over with paper.

She promises fans she’ll let them know when the new Hamburger Heaven opens – and where it will relocate. It’s planned for this fall, she says, but no location has yet been nailed down.

Reef Road closes 4th of July

The Reef Road Restaurant and Rum Bar has closed on Clematis in downtown West Palm Beach. No word on what happened here, but some speculate the number of casual food restaurants with full bars now open in the downtown area have saturated the dining market.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ed W. // Jul 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Harry and I looked at downtown and decided it saturated with food and booze. Why fight city hall LOL The hot dog cart guy is the only one making money down there.

  • 2 Sue // Jul 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    “the number of casual food restaurants with full bars”? Really? On Clematis? Downtown? I beg to differ. Gratify is the 3rd “restaurant” concept to die on Clem..the third “adult” restaurant concept to fold…so name some of these “successful” casual restaurants! More and more Clematis St. has become one big Gin Palace for nightclubs and weekend drunk-fests for trampy 20-somethings looking for cheap shots and free apps. It’s a shame that we’re losing establishments like Gratify that had substance.

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