High up in the Herald’s 2007 review of Prime Blue Grille, the paper’s dining critic conceded that the Miami steakhouse’s waterfront location was “tricky to find.”
Less than two years later, the restaurant shuttered permanently. In its place came a short-lived Caribbean fusion eatery called Solymar, followed by a short-lived Italian restaurant called Scalina.
Now, the New York-based Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is giving it a go in the former Prime Blue Grille spot at 315 S. Biscayne Blvd., next to the One Miami building. The family-run operation opened in April and is hoping to buck that location’s trend of failed restaurants.
“I don’t believe in ‘cursed’ restaurant locations,” said Peter Zwiener, 48, who owns the steakhouse along with his father, Wolfgang Zwiener, and other partners. “I believe we have a tried-and-true concept that’s worked for us for 10 years in New York and elsewhere. If we can execute that concept here, we will have a successful restaurant.”
Across South Florida, numerous locations stick out as unlucky addresses for restaurants — places with frequent turnover where nothing ever seems to stick.
Restaurant flops can be blamed on lousy food, overpriced food, shoddy service, a flawed concept, lack of cash, inadequate parking, poor management, an off-the-beaten-path location or some combination of missteps.
“The number one reason restaurants close is because they just don’t offer consumers a competitive difference, be it in food quality, service, price or overall experience,” said industry analyst Dean Haskell, a principal founder of National Retail Concept Partners. “When you look into why particular locations fail over and over, the biggest thing becomes difficulty of ingress and egress. How easy is it to find the restaurant, drive there, park and eat?”
But where other restaurants have failed, some restaurateurs see an opportunity — and the power to negotiate a favorable lease.
“You want to use that as a bully club to beat up the landlord, getting a better price,” Haskell said. “I negotiated a lease for a high-profile celebrity restaurant in a location with a bad reputation. The rent was running $35-$40 a square foot, and we got them to come down to $23 a square foot for the first year, $28 for the second year.”
The Zwiener family is betting that it can succeed at a South Florida address that has seen three restaurants come and go in five years.
Wolfgang Zwiener, 74, opened the first Wolfgang’s in New York in 2004, after a 40-year career as a waiter at Brooklyn’s famed Peter Luger Steakhouse. The 250-seat Miami outpost is the seventh Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.
Peter Zwiener said his family had long considered South Florida for one of their restaurants, rejecting spaces in Coral Gables in 1996 and Miami Beach a few years ago before signing a lease in downtown Miami.
Sipping a coffee on his restaurant’s patio last week, Zwiener attributed the shortfalls of the site’s previous tenants to a down economy and mostly unfilled downtown condo towers at the time. But he acknowledged that, even with a rebounding economy and more downtown residents, Wolfgang’s Steakhouse must overcome its tricky-to-find locale.