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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Rash of recent restaurant closings is no real cause for alarm

With the closing of two more longtime local restaurants this past week (more on that in a minute) I can’t tell you how many calls and emails I’ve fielded from readers asking – many in a panicky voice – what in the world is happening in Charleston to cause all of this?


Bridge Road Bistro in South Hills
Bridge Road Bistro in South Hills






It’s as if a simple explanation would put their minds at ease, or at least help them make sense of the losses. And in my opinion, there really is a simple explanation: The restaurant business is brutal, y’all, and it has only gotten more difficult since COVID.


Food and supply costs have skyrocketed, good help is hard to find (and keep) and many people post-pandemic simply don’t eat out as much as they used to.


The rash of recent restaurant closings has been sudden and sad, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not caused by any underlying local problem here. Restaurants in cities across the country are facing the same business challenges.


In the case of Tidewater Grill and The Chop House – both of which closed without notice last week – they were owned by a national company that could no longer justify years of financial losses at both places.


In the case of Bridge Road Bistro, which will host its final dinner service this Saturday, its owner was ready to move on to new challenges and have time to enjoy the hard-earned successes of her labor.


Can you really blame either of them? I can’t, as much as I hate to see these places go.  


So for those of you who have been asking, there you have it. I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with Charleston or its still fairly vibrant restaurant scene. No smoking gun, no alarming drop in the economy.


I believe most people still appreciate good food, friendly service and the locally owned businesses that provide both. But if they don’t start putting their money where their mouths are, so to speak, there will be more beloved restaurants closing their doors.

 

Bridge Road Bistro closes with grace


When the decision was made to close South Hills mainstay Bridge Road Bistro, owner Sandy Call said there was no way she was going to do that without taking care of her staff first.


In a TV interview last week, she said she remembered when places like The Pitch of Kanawha City, Tidewater and Chop House did that and she thought it was a terrible way to treat people who she considered (and called) part of her “Bistro family.”


Bridge Road Bistro
Bridge Road Bistro

So Sandy reached out to local restaurant owners and was proud to get all of her employees placed in new jobs once the restaurant celebrates its final curtain call this Saturday night.


That act of kindness – and the unbelievable outpouring of support she has received from customers, fellow restaurant owners and the community itself – is a testament to the quality of her character.


Sandy always managed the Bistro with dignity and grace, which is just how she’s closing this chapter of her life now. Very well done!

 

Italian Grille closes in Teays Valley


With all the chatter surrounding Bridge Road Bistro’s closing, somewhat lost in the news this week was that the longtime Italian Grille located at the sprawling Putnam Village Shopping Plaza has apparently closed as well.


It was once a popular restaurant for old-school Italian eats, but former fans say new ownership struggled to maintain that success and both quality and crowds had been dwindling.


The doors have been locked for a few weeks, there’s no answer when calling and Facebook is full of posts about its demise.


• • •


Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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