UPDATE: Jennifer Nguyen, publicist for The Capitol, reached out on Tuesday afternoon to state for the record that the restaurant is not closed for good and does plan to reopen. "There was water damage from a unit in the St. Germain lofts above on March 21," Nguyen explained, "and it ruined our kitchen." All of the electrical appliances were destroyed, she said, and the water "made a huge mess." This disaster is also why the phone lines were down, Nguyen explained. "We're taking it one day at a time and dealing with insurance," she said, but The Capitol does expect to reopen once it's renovated the waterlogged kitchen.
Last week, The Capitol at St. Germain posted the above image on its Facebook page. The downtown restaurant that was once so promising when it opened in late 2011 suffered in the wake of losing its two opening chefs, Kevin Bryant and Mark Parmley. Lately, every time I walked by The Capitol past happy hour, the place was virtually dead.
This past Thursday night, I spotted some activity going on outside The Capitol -- which was previously home to the Viva Las Vegas-y restaurant Zula -- that suggested furniture was being moved out of the space. And a friend who posted on the Facebook image above was quickly banned after leaving a question to the effect of: "Kitchen maintenance and renovation? Or skirting the landlord?"
With a monthly rent close to $17,000 (according to a source) and construction of a new light rail line outside its front door for nearly the duration of its existence, The Capitol needed to be a success from the start. The beautifully renovated dining room complete with massive, two-story-tall Corinthian columns had been restored to its old pre-Zula glamour. Gone were the tacky, multicolored chairs and the decade-old casino carpet. In their place was a streamlined, Mad Men-esque dining room that was evocative of a classic supper club.
And although Bryant and Parmley's food shined as brightly as the renovated marquee outside, The Capitol never seemed to capture the right audience. The venue hosted corporate events and fundraisers like the Kiss My Grits throwdown, but didn't seem to have a steady crowd of return visitors. Happy hours were always well-attended, but fewer stayed for dinner or the live acts that The Capitol was booking.
Soon, the restaurant was resorting to gimmicks, touting specials like a recent "Pre St. Patrick's Day" offer for $2.50 domestics, $3.50 imports and $5 shots that would typically be found at spots like Sunny's Bar down the street (a bar infamous for its "Ray Charles" cocktail that involves a patron closing his eyes, throwing three ice cubes and getting a drink made with whatever bottles of liquor the ice cubes hit) -- not a nice restaurant.
It's a shame, too, as the light rail line is finally nearing completion and downtown's Main Street corridor is finally experiencing a renaissance that was a long time in the making. I can't help but think that if The Capitol had opened a year later -- or even if it was opening now -- the restaurant would have found a far different reception.
Thankfully, Bryant and Parmley's talents are being put to good use elsewhere: Parmley is now the sous chef at Ciao Bello and Bryant was tapped to head up Eleven 11, a new seafood restaurant in Montrose set to open any day now.
Calls to the restaurant weren't returned, and on my last attempt, the phone line seemed to have been disconnected.