Today the Palm Beach Post published an article on the unfortunate closing of Bobbi Sue BBQ on the 200 block. The article essentially blames Clematis Street, parking, and the downtown crowd for the failure.
With all due respect, it was the food at Bobbi Sue BBQ that was lacking.
Here are a couple choice lines from the most recent Palm Beach Post article:
Only eight short months after opening, Bobbi Sue Bar-B-Que has closed on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, an indication that even a hot urban destination can’t meet all the needs of the dining public.
“We had a great lunch crowd, but not a strong family presence,” Mash said, especially at night. That’s when the young, hip professionals gather on Clematis Street hot spots for happy hours or nightlife.
Families, on the other hand, prefer a place that’s convenient to go to for weekend meals and has easy parking, Mash added.
Bobbi Sue closed six months after the Palm Beach Pulse had written a scathing review on the food. Emphasis is mine.
The minds behind two-month-old Bobbi Sue BBQ have brought this attractively branded concept to Clematis Street, along with a focused, well-edited menu that goes from fried pickles to pulled pork to fried catfish to chicken and waffles.
They’ve brought Mason jars filled with Southern specialty drinks.
But here’s what they didn’t bring: good grub.
The creation of nightclub owner Cleve Mash (Dr. Feelgood’s, Dirty Martini), who named the place after his fiancée, Bobbi Sue attempts to ride the Southern-hipster wave. But instead, it flounders. Its fun and tempting menu fails to inspire its kitchen.
For the diner, it means disappointment on the plate.
The review was followed by 17 comments by locals who piled on about how they disliked the food. Urbanspoon gave Bobbi Sue a 50% rating with comments such as “Green beans from a can!” and “Just Bad”. The food was clearly a problem.
When people don’t like your food, you fix your food; you don’t continue on as normal and then blame the parking when you fold.
Bobbi Sue BBQ had a LOT going for them. The 200 block has a TON of walk-through traffic. The liquor license means that even though your food isn’t a culinary marvel, you can still make a ton on drink sales. And it was a cool design and concept! There were a couple good items on the Lunch menu, I personally enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich (pictured below). Everyone loves BBQ, and there was a lot of buzz prior to its launch. If executed correctly there would be no reason why the concept wouldn’t work.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to kick a restaurant once they are down. I love working and playing on Clematis Street and sincerely want all the restaurants to succeed. I feel that finding out what went wrong is a more constructive approach than arbitrarily blaming the location and parking.
We have restaurants that are doing exceptionally well. Rocco’s Tacos is literally across the street from Bobbi Sue and is packed every night. Kabuki took over the spot of the failed Mambos Italianos, and is packed for lunch and dinner. The Wine Dive on the 300 block, carved out a unique position on the street and attracts a very loyal following. Palm Sugar moved into a spot where a restaurant had previously failed. They put a TON of work into their menu, and after only one year, they are the most talked about restaurant on Clematis Street, even without a liquor license. And we’re not even going to discuss the 500 block, which has created a very successful ecosystem despite having less parking than the blocks to the east.
When Five Guys closed their doors on Clematis Street I wrote a blog entry called Five Tips for Surviving Clematis Street. Everything in that article remains true and it is still my firm opinion that Clematis Street is a great place for destination restaurants who are managed well, and provide a great dining experience.
To finish this rant I want to say this: “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to Clematis Street. Throwing a good concept up against the wall is not going to create a popular and hip restaurant. Clematis Street is a difficult market and if you go into it like you go into setting up a food stand in the food court of a mall, it simply won’t work. You need good food, good management/servers, events, a connection with the local audience, and good PR to brand yourself as a “destination location” and bring in people from outside your local area.
I’m sad to see Bobbi Sue’s go, and hope to see a cool, fresh, and most importantly, good menu at J. Flynn’s Irish Pub.