Allston poised to get 'highest end restaurant ever,' also, fewer rats

The Boston Licensing Board decides tomorrow whether to approve what could be the first of ritzy new restaurants to go along with the fancy new apartments being built in Allston.

Michael Chapman needs board approval to spend $50,000 to buy the liquor license of Positano Boston in the Charlestown Navy Yard. At a hearing this morning, Chapman and his lawyers described an ambitious project, already underway, to turn a rat-infested, collapsing old building at 87 Glenville Ave. into the Glenville Stops.

Chapman wants to turn "a pretty notoriously run-down commercial property" into "the highest-end restaurant ever in Allston," one of his lawyers, Joshua Krefetz, told the board.

Chapman said that when he's done, he will have spent $900,000 replacing brick walls that had begun collapsing onto the street and a leaking roof and dealing with other issues, including "a major problem with rats" that apparently were still feasting on the remains of an old convenience store on the site when not roaming the neighborhood in search of food.

Food prices won't be cheap, and that's on purpose, his other lawyer, David McCool, said.

"A lot of establishments (in Allston) cater to a younger crowd," but the construction of the new apartments means folks with more established sources of income are looking for a different atmosphere when they go out to eat, not "the reckless atmosphere" so typical in other eateries in Allston.

Even the Allston Civic Association is on board. President Paul Berkeley noted the association hasn't had much luck holding back the tide of late-night liquor licenses, so "maybe if we can shoot for quality, we can improve the area."

If the board approves the license transfer, Chapman said he hopes to open by late August or early September.

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Comments

Similar plan didn't work out

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Similar plan didn't work out for Petit Robert, which was in a much more visible location with parking and steps-away T access. But hey, I'll give it a try.

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What the hell is Chapman thinking?

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That has to be the worst location I could ever even conceive in Allston to put that restaurant.

It's not visible from anywhere mainstream. The directionality of the roads in there only give you one or two good access points to the place. There's NEVER any parking in that section of Allston because of the proximity to Harvard Ave, Brighton Ave, and high density buildings along Comm Ave. There's continuous (and escalating) minor AND major crime in Ringer Park.

AND just look at what happened to the ever-cycling location (much better location...and still a bad location) at 1414 Comm Ave that was most recently a Petit Robert Bistro...it closed in November! Some Japanese ramen shop was supposed to try its hand next at the always-failed spot, but I'm not sure if it has even opened yet.

So, what in the hell is working for Chapman at that location that he thinks he's going to recover nearly a million dollars in renovations to rebuild the location before he even opens??

My mind boggles...

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Businesses should really

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Businesses should really consult UHub before making starting new developments. It boggles the mind that these developers use business models and 'school learning' instead of the comment forums here.

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Business models and 'school learning'?

Do business models and 'school learning' really suggest that a high-end restaurant will thrive on a residential street with no parking in a decidedly sketchy neighborhood? What an interesting idea.

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The location might work to

The location might work to their advantage. Being separated from the noise and meatheads on Harvard and Brighton is a good thing if you're going for the high end. It's almost "European" to have a little high-end restaurant nestled in a residential neighborhood, which, again, doesn't hurt if you're marketing yourself as upscale.

Offer valet parking and you're good to go. It's also walking distance from the trolley on Comm Ave. As for the sketchiness, maybe the police will start paying attention to Ringer Park if a couple of rich people get attacked. Anyway, probably not an issue for the majority of customers who will just drive up and hand their keys to the valet.

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Been There Done That

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That is the same method of attack Petit Robert used though, with it's mid-block, isolated location. They had the same over-priced food this guy is shooting for, and valets to counteract the parking issues.

However on the other hand, a model like the neighbor of that building on Glenville - May's Cafe - seems to have worked (in that they are still there after years). They offer reasonable priced, meals to a select, niche crowd of people who know about it by word of mouth or something.

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I realize that it's not that

I realize that it's not that far in terms of absolute difference, but the Petit Robert location (technically Brighton, I believe, and on the other side of Comm Ave) seems a lot less inviting, and less accessible from the "nightlife" part of Allston. Just MHO. This place will be a short walk (with no major street crossings) from Harvard Ave or Brighton Ave.

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Petit Robert Location

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WHat's the longest a place has held out in that location. I remember a decent Middle Eastern place (was that Zocalo?), in addition to Petit Robert and the Japanese place before it.

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nope

i think Zocalo was the burrito place.. and it was actually really good

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brunch

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Zocalo had a nice weekend brunch, but it was always completely empty.

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The Most Complete List (so far)

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It has been in the 15 years I've lived nearby:

Atara Bistro (French)
Istanbul Cafe (Turkish)
Zocalo (Mexican)
Chez Jacky (French)
Jacky's Table (French)name change only, same people
Petit Robert (French) name change only, same people
Ittoku (Japanese) yet to open, doomed for the same fate?

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More complete

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UVA (Italian) 1991-2001
Atara Bistro (French)2001-2003
Istanbul Cafe (Turkish)2003-2005
Zocalo (Mexican)2005-2008
Chez Jacky (French)2009-2010
Jacky's Table (French)name change only, same people 2010-2011
Petit Robert (French) name change only, same people 2011-2012
Ittoku (Japanese) yet to open, doomed for the same fate? 2013-?

Nothing lasted more then 2-3 years except the first concept (Uva).

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Deep Ellum and Cognac Bistro

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Deep Ellum and Cognac Bistro are doing well pretty close to that area. There are a lot of graduate students and young professionals that seek out these places in addition to cheap ethnic takeout.

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"Close"?

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They might as well be in a different time zone. I know it's only like half a mile away, but nobody in the area thinks like that. It's just too separated by the neighborhood layout or something.

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Indeed

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Having lived smack between the proposed restaurant and Allston's Union Sq. (Cambridge and Brighton, where Deep Ellum is), I can tell you that the neighborhood between Allston St. and Harvard Ave. is like a no man's land, and thought of that way as well. You think of places to go, and you think of Brighton Ave first, then head down Comm, then maybe Harvard Ave. At no point does someone walk up to Comm from Allston St, hang a left and dive into the n'hood. You'll get murdered by a rat or bitten by a druggie.

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Common Ground does very well

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Common Ground does very well with the "older" (relatively speaking) crowd as well. They obviously have a young crowd on Friday and Saturday night, but the rest of the time they have a 28+ crowd that is looking to stay away from the "reckless" behavior typical of other establishments in the neighborhood.

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It's better than you think

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It's right next to May's Cafe. That's a good place and has been around for a while.

There's NEVER any parking in that section of Allston because of the proximity to Harvard Ave, Brighton Ave, and high density buildings along Comm Ave.

You do know there's other ways to get people to a restaurant besides parking, right? Did you forget that high density = people?

This assumption that patrons only arrive at a restaurant by car is something I did not expect to hear from you.

You're not the one pumping "nearly a million dollars" in renovations into the project. Do you think he would have done so if he didn't think it was worth his while?

There's continuous (and escalating) minor AND major crime in Ringer Park.

Because Ringer Park is tucked away from normal community activity. Geography and poor zoning decisions combine to nearly guarantee that such a park will have problems with crime.

One of the biggest problems with Boston "planning" has been the impulse to compartmentalize uses. Normally, shops would have spread out along the corridors of population density. For instance, Comm Ave ought to have nearly-continual first-floor retail.

But for whatever reason, a long time ago, a decision was made not to allow commercial uses outside of designated districts. There are a few exceptions, probably from pre-existing uses. But Comm Ave has a shockingly low amount of retail along it. It's something I noticed immediately upon moving into the area.

Now, this corner is a small neighborhood retail cluster, so I'm not sure it's an exception, but it's better than nothing. And I support businesses that want to move to the places where people already live, and bring more foot-traffic too. Yes, there's a kind of chicken-and-egg problem of "nobody goes there because nobody goes there" but if someone can overcome that then we're all better off.

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Budgeting

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They may do well, but they are going to have to find a good way to advertise.

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This block doesn't have a lot

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This block doesn't have a lot of pedestrian traffic.

I think they should be allowed to open a restaurant there if they want, but they shouldn't be surprised if there isn't much business.

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Response

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You do know there's other ways to get people to a restaurant besides parking, right? Did you forget that high density = people?

The people who live in that area are predominantly students. The new development across Comm Ave may inject some money in the area but I'd be surprised if they supply enough people to keep the place busy or even open. Expensive restaurants are usually destination draws...except this is not in any destination anyone will want to go or think about going to.

This assumption that patrons only arrive at a restaurant by car is something I did not expect to hear from you.

Most of the patrons that are going to pay for a nice meal are going to arrive by car. The denizens of Back Bay don't pay $500,000 for a parking space because they frequently take the T to dinner.

You're not the one pumping "nearly a million dollars" in renovations into the project. Do you think he would have done so if he didn't think it was worth his while?

Since my post is questioning what he was thinking, I clearly think he would think it was worth his while. I see absolutely no reason anyone with any knowledge of the area would think that way. So far, you haven't exactly presented evidence to the contrary.

Your complaints about the positioning of Ringer Park and zoning history are things I agree with...but don't change the situation this restaurant will find itself in.

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Why not "free market" on this?

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I don't get your position. You're all about the "free market" in the other licensing cases. But when someone is willing to put his own money on a crumbling building, fix it up, clean up a small part of the neighborhood, you go off on him about parking?

You don't think the licensing board should be arbitrarily deciding whether a restaurant can open at 5 a.m. (and I agree with you) but you think they should arbitrarily decide there's "not enough parking for that concept" and shut it down?

Restaurant business is a tough one, no doubt. I don't know whether he'll succeed or fail. But if we care at all about the notion of a "free market" then I don't see any reason to interfere. And I, for one, am happy that somebody is putting money into my neighborhood, in a positive way.

Most of the patrons that are going to pay for a nice meal are going to arrive by car. The denizens of Back Bay don't pay $500,000 for a parking space because they frequently take the T to dinner.

Because we should make public policy based around the needs of multi-millionaires who have so much money they don't even blink at spending $500,000 on what they call "parking for servants"? I think that the needs of the rich are already well-represented in government. And someone with that amount of money probably has a chauffeur, anyway.

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Didn't say he can't do it

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My position is that he's an idiot. I never said he can't do it. There's no confusion there.

I didn't say he shouldn't get a booze license or be stopped by the licensing board.

Nothing I said suggests he should be stopped, except by his own better judgement.

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Allston

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When crime disappears from Ringer Park rents will really go up.

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Some Japanese ramen shop was

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Some Japanese ramen shop was supposed to try its hand next at the always-failed spot, but I'm not sure if it has even opened yet.

It has not, but there are workers doing renovations there. IIRC the sign billed it as some sort of sake bar. And it is a terrible location. The property owner should just build a five story apartment building there, with the first floor and basement capable of being easily converted to businesses. A small grocery (a real one, not the dingy convenience stores that litter the area) would be nice. Trader Joe's has a miniscule store in Back Bay that does well; maybe they could replicate that there -- Coolidge Corner is a long walk with a couple sacks of groceries.

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What this block/neighborhood

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What this block/neighborhood really needs is two things: a good coffee shop (shoot, even a Starbucks would be fine but an independent joint would be preferred), and a real grocery market. I don't understand why those two don't exist given the high population density in the area and relative lack of anything within walking distance. Is it zoning? Cheap college students? What gives?

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He's thinking

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about the Allston Green District (aka Satellite Coolidge Corner,) that quadfecta of douche-itories plopped in the middle of what used to be one of the better slivers of Allston.

He's thinking that that crowd will walk across the street to Glenville with sufficient frequency to support his restaurant.

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meanwhile in JP, the loring-greenough house...

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...violates city ordinances by putting out their more than half a dozen trashbags late-afternoon Sunday (trash can't go out until the morning of collection) and doesn't put them in containers.

They rake in money from weddings and whatnot so the people who live there get free rent, but apparently they can't follow the rules?

I've reported it to the city via citizen's connect something like four times in a row, and each week the city closes the ticket late Monday or Tuesday saying "inspector found no violation". No kidding, sherlocks. Trash collection is Monday morning...

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Um, cool story, bro? I'm

Um, cool story, bro? I'm going to make a crazy suggestion that maybe Citizen's Connect isn't the best way to deal with this problem.

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and what do you suggest?

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Do you suggest some sort of white-trash Southie-style retribution where I punch someone in the head over it?

Citizens Connect is supposedly exactly for this sort of thing.

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How about you pick up the

How about you pick up the phone and call the inspectional services department? Citizens' Connect seems like it's intended more for potholes, broken street signs, etc., which are not time-sensitive. If trash day is Monday morning, I doubt anyone is even in the office to start reading the weekend's new CC posts until after 9:00 anyway.

EDIT: And WTF does this have to do with a new restaurant in Allston anyway?

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You again... Despite what you

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You again...

Despite what you found buried in the State Sanitary Code, and feel the need to keep repeating on UHub even in threads where it's totally irrelevant, the City of Boston, which collects the trash and enforces the trash rules within its borders, says you can put out your trash after 5 pm the night before. And it can go in a thick trash bag, just not a kitchen bag or grocery bag.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/publicworks/wastereduc...

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I'm trying to figure out the connection...

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Between the Loring-Greenough House and a restaurant in Allston. Hmmmm. Still trying. Nope.

Also honestly wondering where you could possibly live that the LGH's methods of trash disposal could really bother you. At any rate, maybe a neighborly note will help?

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ha ha

Love it, but don't know that murals are for losers?

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Allston poised to get 'highest end restaurant ever,'

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Where will the customers park? Has anyone seen that location? You can't come across B-Line tracks so you would have to go up Harvard and take a left on the carriage road or Glenville itself.

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and then

where are you giving the valets reserved parking spots?? you know valets don't just circle around while you eat

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Wherever all the other valet

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The only other valet I can think of is on Comm Ave near Kelton St on the inbound side...
But to be realistic, think of it this way if you asked 3 valet drivers if they would want to work downtown or in Allston, what do you think their answers would be?

or

People go to Allston because it is cheaper. Paying/tipping a valet would offset that

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Hah

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Don't you remember Ferris Bueller?

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Because, you would want

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Because, you would want people coming from other neighborhoods. Brighton, Watertown poeple aren't going to take the 57 to dinner.

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Yes, I have seen it extensively

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Because I walk. You should try that sometime.

The Green Line drops off many hundreds of people per hour nearby. Try paying more attention to your surroundings. Those B-Line tracks aren't just there for nothing.

Your parking obsession belongs in the suburbs. If we only allowed restaurants where there was "ample" parking, then the city wouldn't have any restaurants at all.

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Reality check

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People who take the T are not in large part the same people who eat $150 meals.

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you can drive across the

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you can drive across the b-line tracks at both warren and harvard. or you could walk.

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what are you talking

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what are you talking about?

Assuming you park by CVS where there is a lot of parking:
1)look, there's a crossing for the tracks !! omg!!
2) Walk a block down Spofford Road
3) Take a left on Glenville and walk a block
4) OMG Restaurant!!!

So, there's lots of public parking two blocks away. And there's more parking at Grigg's Street, which is about 2.5 blocks from the restaurant when you cross there and take Long Ave.

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You forgot a step.

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5. Come back to no car because CVS tows cars from their lot if the people are not in CVS. Much like the lot off Brighton Ave for that plazza, tow trucks perform frequent sweeps.

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A little help

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I can't seem to discover what other forays into restaurant ownership Mr. Chapman has done in the past. Anyone able to fill me in?

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Nothing local

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He's from England, where he was involved in similar restaurants there, but has been working in the service industry here, he said today.

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Local restuarant success

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I live in Charlestown and remember when Olives opened circa 1988. Many people thought they were nuts.
however they succeeded! Clearly it was because the Boston foodie crowd embraced them as Todd English was well known and had established a reputation in working at several other well respected Boston establishments. And with all the buzz the many in the neighborhood that appreciate good food patronized them as we'll. it has been said that Olives helped put Charlestown on the map.

I think there are three basic paths to success for a new independent restaurant in Boston

If the food quality is not there there is no chance of success for a new restaurant, somehow older sub quality restaurants linger but there costs are lower and they may be losing money that they made years ago. A new restaurant with an expensive build out and high rent doesn't have time to wait for the business to grow.

1. Great location with high foot traffic and visibility to wealthy tourists and business people. A chef owner with excellent reputation and following, excellent food and service. Prices should be in line with other premium location restuarants.

2. Sub par location, chef / owner with excellent reputation and following, excellent food and service, prices must reflect the fact that the rent is lower. Establishment must have the ability to attract a new local customer base in addition to citywide destination diners.

3. Value restuarants that deliver excellent food and service and are either ethnic, gastro pub style or specialize in seafood, barbeque, vegetarian, organic etc (something that distinguishes them from the crowd). A well known chef may not be needed in this category but if the quality and service is not there the business will fail.

If the chef is not well known in the foodie circle you will run out of money before you establish yourself and build a following of repeat customers. Adverstising alone will not do it. Execution is critical, if the first set of diners that try the place out trash it on yelp you might as well call it quits.

Opening a new restuarant is more likely to succeed if the chef/owner avoids an expensive build out. If the restaurant succeeds then you do a remodel or expansion.

Having a execllent working relationship with the community and the landlord is paramount as well as a sensible lease. So many moderately busy restaurants end up calling it quits because the rent croaks them. Many new establishments have much higher operating cost than older ones that have lease established years ago and build outs that have already been paid for. If you open and can't create a quick following with repeat clientele those cost will eat you alive.

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Location