Very interesting and revealing article in the Bulletin today about the state of Downtown Bend’s restaurant economy—including the surprising fact that Bluefish Bistro closed on Saturday(!).
Bluefish is just the latest in a string of sudden closures, I guess. The new burger place mentioned in the article is slated to occupy its former space.
At least four new restaurants — Subway Sandwiches, Ciao Mambo, Pita Pit and the Bend Burger Co. — have opened or are slated to open soon in downtown Bend.
The new Subway will fill a hole in a downtown space, formerly occupied by a retail shop, that had been vacant for at least several months….
It’s still a great time for small, not-so-upscale restaurants to come into town, said Jon Hayes, new owner of the Bend Burger Co., which is opening Sept. 15 in the former site of Bluefish Bistro.
Bluefish closed Saturday, about four years after it opened, Hayes said. The owner could not be reached for comment.
“We’re trying to bring back the old-style burger, fries and milkshake restaurant,” Hayes said. “People don’t want to pay $30 for a meal anymore if they can pay $10 and feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.”
Around the corner from where the new burger spot will be located, the Pita Pit opened two weeks ago, serving Lebanese-style pita sandwiches. Nothing on the menu is priced more than $6.65, and the restaurant fills a niche downtown serving many of the people who work in other restaurants and shops, said Casey Howland, the owner and manager.
But what’s interesting is the focus on downtown becoming more economical and "less upscale" than the trends have been over the last few years. There’s even some numbers which I think will back up what Duncan‘s been saying for like a year now.
Lease rates — which reached $2.50 per square foot in summer 2007, on par with areas such as Newport Beach, Calif. — are starting to drop to around $2 per square foot, Mape said.
Fewer mom-and-pop businesses, however, can survive the existing market conditions, Mape said.
“It could be spring 2010 before we get the healthy economy back,” Mape said. “We’re recommending that restaurateurs have at least 18 months to float themselves. They need the deeper pockets to cover any potential losses.”
I really like the idea of getting "cheaper" eateries back into Downtown; it seems like every new-ish place down there is upscale and very expensive. They may be really good, but it just seems like there’s too few options for an affordable meal these days, especially if you’re on the go or just want to grab a casual meal.
Plus, despite how Downtown wants to remain "local and independent" they really need to get some lower-priced, chain stores like Subway in there for the health and vibrancy of the economy. In my opinion, of course.