The Dish: Recent Cincinnati Restaurant Openings and Closings

ICYMI, here's some recent Cincinnati food news.

click to enlarge Total Juice Plus has been serving Cincinnati for 24 years. - PHOTO: FACEBOOK.COM/TOTALJUICEPLUS
Photo: facebook.com/TotalJuicePlus
Total Juice Plus has been serving Cincinnati for 24 years.

In case you missed it, here's some recent restaurant news.

Downtown’s Fred & Gari’s, Total Juice Plus to Close

Lunch won’t be the same in the Central Business District, as two decades-old staples are being told to leave their storefronts. Both Total Juice Plus and Fred & Gari’s have said they will close their doors by the end of January.

Emil Mallat received a note from his landlord on Nov. 12 saying that Total Juice Plus, the business his father Joseph started 24 years ago and which he co-owns, had to vacate its storefront at 631 Vine St. by the end of this January. Fred & Gari’s, the deli soup and sandwich takeout joint next door, received a similar ultimatum.

Mallat tells CityBeat there was one option their landlord, 1W7 CARPARK, LLC, offered him: Total Juice Plus could move to an adjacent location in the building it has occupied since June of 1998 if Mallat and his father agreed to a 300% rent hike.

The letter to Total Juice Plus, which Mallat provided to CityBeat, reads in part: “On June 1st, 1998 Landlord and Tenant entered into a lease which currently stands as a month to month agreement, where the landlord or tenant may give 30 days to terminate the lease. We ask that you would be out of the space no later than January 31, 2022. We do, however, have another option if you would like to remain a tenant in our building in an adjacent space. We’d like to the (sic) opportunity to discuss future building plans and review the following terms with you as soon as possible.”

This comes at a time when Total Juice Plus is only seeing 50% of its regular income due to the pandemic’s influence on city foot traffic, says Mallat.

Total Juice Plus has been a mainstay of the weekday lunch rush downtown for more than two decades, offering healthy menu items like wraps, freshly-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices and all-natural nonfat smoothies. The Mallat family has owned and operated this business at the Vine Street location since it opened.

“When we moved in and up until about three years ago, we were leasing and had a strong relationship with Macy’s,” Mallat says, referring to the building’s previous owner. “We never missed payments. We were paid ahead, in fact, by three months.”

“Now this, the timing and neglect of compassion or decency,” he says. “They never gave us warning or a heads up of a project or anything. Sent us a note like an elementary student.”

Fred & Gari’s has served food at 629 Vine St. since 1987, first as a ZZ’s Pizza Company franchise, then independently in 1994. The business’s daily rotating assortment of soups, pizza and classic deli sandwiches draw lines out the door on a regular basis.

“I knew that it was going to happen sooner or later, but I didn’t know when,” says Gari Jager, owner of Fred & Gari’s.

“They had the option to do that,” he says of the terms of the lease.

Macy’s sold the garage and merchant levels of its building on the 600 block of Vine Street to 1W7 CARPARK, LLC in 2018, according to property records. 1W7 CARPARK, LLC did not respond to multiple CityBeat inquiries.

According to 1W7 CARPARK, LLC’s note that Mallat shared, Total Juice Plus was engaged in a month-to-month agreement where either the landlord or the business could give 30 days notice to terminate the lease. Mallat has sought legal advice but doesn’t believe anything will change the outcome. He says his father suffered an anxiety attack over the holidays because of the note instead of celebrating as the family had hoped.

“Twenty four years serving Cincinnati, only to be shrugged off as if we were college tenants in an apartment,” Mallat says. “We are absolutely crushed, but we are making it, smiling, going on as best we can.”

There’s no certainty as to what will happen next for the two businesses; neither are sure what the public could do to help them at this time, though Jager says he will start to look for a new location to reopen after taking a much-deserved vacation in February.

“Things happen for a reason,” Jager says, “and it’s going to get better.”

Total Juice Plus, 631 Vine St., totaljuicecincy.com. Fred & Gari’s, 629 Vine St., facebook.com/FredGaris.

click to enlarge Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey's Pendelton location - PHOTO: HAILEY BOLLINGER
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey's Pendelton location

Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey in Pendleton Gets Second Chance

After announcing earlier this month he would have to close his flagship restaurant, chef Christian Gill says Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey in Pendleton is getting a second chance.

In a Jan. 21 Facebook post, Gill wrote, “The outpouring of love and support from the community has been overwhelming and we are taking another shot to save the biscuits that Christian and PJ worked so hard to bring to downtown Cincinnati.”

Earlier in January, Gill said he was going to have to shutter Boomtown’s Pendleton restaurant due to fallout from the pandemic and “all of the surrounding circumstances that have plagued the industry over the last two years.” (There is a second Boomtown location in Union, Kentucky.)

Now, he says he’s looking to implement a crowdfunding formula to support Boomtown and to let the public own shares in the eatery.

The news comes just after the one-year anniversary of Boomtown proprietor PJ Neumann’s death, whom Gill mentions in his post. Previously, Gill called Boomtown “PJ’s dream come to fruition,” and said in his post, “With the anniversary of PJ’s passing, we knew we had to come up with something to try and keep the gold in Pendleton.”

“We are grateful to have this chance to risk it for the biscuit and provide 24k service for Biscuit Brunch in downtown Cincinnati,” he added.

The restaurant will be adjusting its hours for now, reopening Jan. 27 and starting daily service Jan. 31. 1201 Broadway St., Pendleton, boomtownbiscuitsandwhiskey.com.

click to enlarge Alabama Fish Bar closed in October of 2021 to undergo renovations. - PHOTO: FACEBOOK.COM/ALABAMAFISHBAR
Photo: facebook.com/ALABAMAFISHBAR
Alabama Fish Bar closed in October of 2021 to undergo renovations.

Alabama Fish Bar Reopens After Renovations

A fishy favorite has reopened in Over-the-Rhine.

Alabama Fish Bar announced on Facebook that the restaurant would be back serving the “best fried fish in Cincinnati” starting Jan. 19.

The three-decade-old eatery closed in October of 2021 to undergo renovations after entering a new lease with 3CDC.

The acquisition was part of 3CDC’s $50 million Willkommen project, which includes building/rehabbing several buildings across Over-the-Rhine to create 163 residential units (with some affordable units) and nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

Out of the deal, Alabama Fish Bar got a refreshed storefront, new flooring and paint and some new kitchen equipment. Another update? The business now takes credit cards.

Anna Fillis, owner of Alabama Fish Bar, said at the time of the closure that planning had taken a little while but the renovations would be worth the wait.

“Things take time, and if you want something done right, you can’t rush into it,” Fillis said. “It’s been about three years in the making, but I’m happy for the change and excited for the future.”

Alabama Fish Bar actually started as a pizza-by-the-slice shop (which served other bites as well), but after a successful staff meal of fried whiting became a regular occurrence in the kitchen — with a Fillis’ family-recipe batter — the establishment eventually found its niche.

Alabama Fish Bar now offers three different fish on its menu: cod, whiting and ocean perch, as well as french fries and slaw.

Alabama Fish Bar, 1601 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/alabamafishbar.

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