INDIANAPOLIS — Before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Palimino, Hard Rock Café and Punch Bowl Social closed for good with no new restauranteur willing to take a risk on what was a lucrative but competitive downtown dining market.
Then when the coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring during the Big 10 basketball tournament, conventions and sporting events were cancelled and office workers stayed home.
Since that time, Sahm’s, The Ram, Rock Bottom Brewery, Morton’s and Dick’s Bodacious BBQ, among others, have shut their doors.
Add Burger Study to that list.
“While we faced a difficult business decision to close Burger Study, we are viewing this as an opportunity to get even stronger at every other Huse Culinary restaurant,” said Craig Huse, president of Huse Culinary. “Every single employee of Burger Study has been offered a position at a companion restaurant that is equal to or greater than their current role. We had an amazing team of hospitality professionals at Burger Study and this is a terrific opportunity to grow and strengthen the operations of all other locations, which have seen steady sales increases and opportunities since reopening.”
Huse Culinary operates St. Elmo’s and Harry & Izzy’s which remain open.
“This is probably the most difficult time anyone has ever faced in the food business,” said George Stergiopoulos, co-owner of Giorgio’s just off Monument Circle. “And now Burger Study closing down, that’s pretty telling for a Huse Food Group that’s run by an amazing team of people to lose a place. That’s a big hit.”
Huse said Burger Study showed yearly double digit increases in business up until this spring.
“Because St. Elmo and Harry & Izzy’s are destination restaurants, they have given Hoosiers, and other visitors, a reason to travel downtown despite the pandemic’s effects on the Circle City’s landscape,” said Huse. “Downtown Indy has been steadily recovering, but a complete recovery will take some time.”
“We need to get back to booming or at least headed in that direction by early next year,” said Stergiopoulos as he surveyed a mostly empty dining area on a day when business was off 50% compared to a typical Monday afternoon a year ago. “When you got buildings here that house between two and six thousand people and they’re operating at ten, fifteen, twenty percent, that’s our base and of course Salesforce is probably the biggest and most intricate part of the downtown restaurant and hospitality scene and they’re not here right now.”
Salesforce has already announced nationwide that it won’t call its employees back to offices until the end of next July, joining a growing list of downtown employers who expect to keep their spaces empty until well into 2021.
“People need to come down here and this is the time when the citizens and community need to step up and support the local restaurants,” said Stergiopoulos. “It’s a survival game for everybody.”
Earlier this month Mayor Joe Hogsett announced $11 million in CARES Act funding would be made available through the HELP grant program to assist bars, restaurants and entertainment venues with resources to weather the COVID shutdown crisis.