Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Albany's Speakeasy will close after a final bash on Wednesday, October 29.

The news came Friday that New Albany's Speakeasy restaurant and jazz venue is closing its doors. The final going-away party is Wednesday, October 29.

At NAC: Final "Big Band Dance and Concert" next Wednesday at Speakeasy ... then, lights out.

Post-mortems will include references to the state of the economy, but it really wasn't that simple. Throughout its roughly 15-month run, the Speakeasy was acclaimed for physical ambience and the unique nature of the jazz and dancing concept. Unfortunately, consistency in service, food and drink proved elusive, and the learning curve was slow.

Anyone who has ever worked in the "hospitality" business knows how maddening it can be to translate a great concept into a functional entity on a day-to-day basis. It's never exactly the way you'd like it to be, even after (in my case) 16 years hashing it out. The bottom line revolves around your ability to make customers feel good about paying you for the service, and to make them feel good enough that they'll come back and repeat the process. It's glib, but its true. The marketplace is unforgiving in the best of times, and when money's tighter, the work becomes harder. Speakeasy never really mastered that equation, and speaking only for myself, I wish there'd have been a way for me to be of more assistance to the owners. The plan was great, and the execution wasn't.

What happens now? It has long been rumored that Louisville-area operators have an interest in the location, and the building's owner is committed to doing what he must to fill the space even if it takes time to find the right tenant. It seems unlikely to me that the name and concept will live on, but perhaps we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

It's true that the economy is far from ideal, and yet prospective occupants of the Speakeasy site should note that it lies only half a block from the new YMCA, which will be opening in mid-November, and is expected to attract several thousand members a week to downtown New Albany.

I feel bad for the Tharps. I know that the Speakeasy was their dream, and they're in a rough place now. They tried their best, and things didn't work out, but you have to give them credit for the effort.

At the same time, we must be thinking of what comes next. Prospects for downtown New Albany remain bright. It's all a matter of finding the right combination.

At NAC: Open thread: Speakeasy will close on Wednesday, October 29.

No comments: