The twin restaurant spaces at 1617 California street downtown have seen a few eateries come and go: Fontano's Subs, An's Lemongrass Grille — and most recently, Planet Sub, which closed on October 7. And while Larkburger is currently making a go of it in the right-hand space, reader Jason Dennee sums up the problem in one sentence: "That space is a restaurant graveyard."
Rocky Joy, the franchise owner of the just-shuttered Planet Sub, might agree — but he points out the underlying reason why his sub shop, Colorado's first branch of a chain out of Lawrence, Kansas, fell victim to the address's curse. According to Joy, revenue from food sales was actually great during the first ten months the shop was open, but an unannounced construction project squashed that the customer base Planet Sub was building.
"Unfortunately, the momentum was brought to a halt in October of last year when a construction project closed the sidewalks and impeded access to the store," a statement from Planet Sub explains. Joy notes that the obstruction was between his shop and 16th Street, where a large amount of pedestrian lunch traffic would normally come from.
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"By the end of construction in mid February of 2015 the store had suffered enough losses that their reserves were depleted and the focus was on keeping the doors open," the statement continues. That, coupled with the ultra-competitive food-service job market, spelled the end for the eatery, which was less than a year old when the construction project began.
Joy explains that initial business was good enough that a second franchise was planned for Denver that would allow employees more upward mobility within the company, but those plans — and the resulting room for employee growth — had to be scrapped after the construction cut into the first store's business. “We were unable to recover from the initial setback of the construction and the staffing issues that followed,” he explains.
With Denver's restaurant explosion over the past two years, competition is fierce for dining dollars — and even the slightest setback can be enough to sink a well-made sub.