The revolving door of Toronto's restaurants is hard to keep up with. My list of restaurant closings is starting to rival the amount opening every week.
Case in point: A few days ago, Bero in Leslieville closed. That makes about nine empty places in a handful of trendy blocks up for sale in this one small area alone. Ardor Bistro, a Peruvian resto on Ossington, also recently shut its doors.
These are just a few examples, but they illustrate the point – what the hell is going on with restaurants right now and why are supposedly 'hot' restaurants closing?
Leslieville is smokin’ hot right now. Rock Lobster came all the way from the west end to open up shop – a big shop, with three patios – as did County General. New hot spot Braised is a recent neighbour, opened by Sam Scanga, owner of Danforth’s long-standing Lolita’s Lust. He wouldn’t open there if it weren’t a good bet.
Ossington is still a draw. Ossington Stop opened to satisfy both the day and late-night crowds, but Delux and Ardor are no more. And the big shocker of course, is Yours Truly’s announcement this week that they’ll be closing at the end of September. And these are just the most recent ones. Which goes to show – you can be on a high traffic street in a trendy area with the cuisine of the moment, and that still doesn't guarantee you success.
A chef recently told me there are too many restaurants to compete with. Point taken - the GTA has over 10,000. That problem has another result: a number of other chefs and owners are struggling to find good chefs and line cooks – there just doesn’t seem enough to go around.
I posted on our Instagram about Bero closing. One responded: “Hipsters of “Leslieville ain’t supporting the restos?” Another said, “Leslievillers support their restaurants… but from what I could tell, Bero didn’t try to engage the community.”
There are a number of issues that can cause a restaurant to close – it’s never just one thing. The world is changing and restaurants are struggling just to keep up. A woman I spoke recently says she and her friends go out often and yet, almost never visit the same restaurant twice. How are restaurateurs supposed to combat that? Another issue is there are so many to choose from now, you don’t have to travel far to satiate your cravings; west-enders can stay in the west end without ever having to come east and vice versa. People are busier than they ever have been. Are they are willing to travel for a meal? Occasionally, yes. But it seems more often, the answer is no.
Sigh. This is a conversation longer than I have space for here. But it’s going to be an ongoing one. Because this is our city, and these are our people and places. Without us, they don’t have a damn thing.
And without them, we don’t get dinner. Or lunch. Or coffee… you get the idea.
In the meantime, I hope everyone's doors stay open.