When we shouldn't say Goodbye so soon...
The Pomeroy House and Beechwood Gastropub have both closed their doors - and this really fucking sucks. It’s a huge risk to open up a restaurant and even more so as a Chef-Owner. I cannot speak first hand on this so I’ll just say that I commend those who have the fortitude to take the gargantuan step into the unknown. For that, we here at S/oS applaud the staff at both restaurants for making realities of their dreams.
But where does the issue stem from, and why do we see two great places close down seemingly out of nowhere?
As I was looking at the articles on their closings, there was one quote on The Pomeroy’s Facebook announcement that really got to me.
‘We had some successes, cherished guests, delightful parties, and the response was overwhelmingly positive in regards to food, atmosphere and service. The harsh reality is that we simply didn’t serve enough of you.’
This was incredibly eye opening but as noted, it is a harsh reality. In order for a place to not just survive but thrive, restaurants need to get butts in seats, people eating their food and quenching their thirst, all while being in an atmosphere they can’t necessarily find anywhere else in town. When people aren’t coming through the door, it’s hard to maintain a business.
This year has easily been the hardest on the restaurant industry with food prices going up at the same time as the minimum wage increase, as Chef Clunie of Gastropub said in her interview with the Citizen. And it’s so true. The margins are so slim as it is when running a restaurant that global and societal shifts like this can end up being the deciding factor. In addition to this, customers are deeply turned off when seeing price hikes on their meals since nobody wants to suddenly be paying more than they were before for their food. “How dare they increase the price of their dishes - it must be greed!” Smarten up people, it’s not that luxurious owning a restaurant. Now more than ever, owners are watching their numbers down to the nickel. They’re not on plush velvety thrones demanding to charge whatever they so choose for their own enjoyment.
I had thought when minimum wage went up that people would be dining out more. More money means greater spending power which should hopefully translate to entertainment and an increase in dining out. Instead, it seems that when people do have the extra cash to eat out, people would rather eat in and spend on premium pricing and delivery on UberEats or SkipTheDishes while getting soggy wings and greek salads. I’ve been to a couple of places this year and Chefs and servers are shaking their heads collectively wondering where all the people are.
It’s up to us, the guests, to DO BETTER! Let’s not lose the nostalgia and connections that come from an amazing dining experience. Food is a connecting medium and we shouldn’t be inhaling it in front of a TV while sitting next to your people. It should be shared with your people, accompanied by great conversation, where you learn something new about that person or bond over that ambient music. It’s having laughs that you create together and sharing memories while making new ones. It’s engaging in a universal tradition that celebrates what you have around you; a community.
Living and working in Ottawa for the past decade I’ve seen lot of places come and go, but there’s something different about this time around with these two restaurants. I’ve seen the quality of food and establishments elevate themselves over the past 10 years which has made me extremely proud to be cooking in this city. The talent that has come up over that decade as well, has been something amazing to witness. We in the industry know about each other through the grapevine and there’s a core sense of community. So for these two places to be closing so close together makes me realize that we have to do our part, and better support those who are trying to do a good thing.
Maybe we have to do a better job of looking out for each other. Whether that’s word of mouth or supporting through social media. I don’t have the answers to create sure fire success for any other place. What I can do on this platform is highlight the true losses of having two really great places close down. This is not what we want to be witnessing.
Next time you find yourself with some time and a little extra coin, go out and enjoy yourself in a new place. It sounds cliche, but we have to support local. We talk about it, but we have to do a better part in the execution. This situation clearly shows that good people still need our constant support to not only succeed but even to just stay in business. Let’s do what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again to those good people doing a good thing.