There's one less happy hour option in Midtown. Yesterday afternoon, BlackFinn American Grille on Bagby announced its closing via its website:
As of Nov. 3, BlackFinn American Grille at 1910 Bagby Street in Houston, TX has permanently closed its doors for business.
We want to extend a sincere thank you to the Midtown community for the support you have shown during our time serving you.
Thank you, Team BlackFinn
CultureMap broke news of the abrupt closing, providing a picture of another letter attached to the front door. BlackFinn's management thanked everyone for their support and added the restaurant was "permanently closed due to unforeseen circumstances." What those unforeseen circumstances entailed isn't clear. Could it have been the food? It's possible. The quality of food for the exorbitant price was a common complaint among diners. What drew in the crowds was the restaurant's proximity to Midtown hot spots, happy hour and college sports. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) reports reflects this.
BlackFinn sold "over $100,000 in liquor sales for two of the last four months," this according to CultureMap, who also noted the closing "[doesn't] appear to be financial." Still, CultureMap, the daily online publication that prides itself on its popular series about TABC reports, had this to say about using the findings as a predictor to a restaurant's longevity or its demise:
Known colloquially as the "TABC report"... it might be the best kept non-secret in the Houston restaurant industry. Every month owners, chefs and industry insiders peruse the numbers to get a glimpse at the state of the competition. Who's up? Who's down? Who's in danger of closing due to declining revenue?
Although CultureMap states, "the numbers don't factor in food sales, obviously, or paint a picture of the costs associated with rent, labor and insurance," subsequent reports continued to turn its focus towards equating low liquor sales as reasons for closings. CultureMap had this to say on the July closing of West Ave's Trenza in Upper Kirby:
The numbers don't lie. When the monthly State Comptroller's Office report shows that a restaurant in a high-priced space is paying less than $1,000 per month in Mixed Beverage Gross Receipts taxes, it isn't long for this world.
If numbers from Mixed Beverage Gross Receipts taxes don't lie and determines a restaurant or bar's longing for this world, surely BlackFinn would be open today. This goes to show using Mixed Beverage Gross Receipts to gauge whether a restaurant or bar is doing well isn't the most accurate--though it works well to gain page views.
There are a number of deciding factors unknown to the general public like beer and wine sales from restaurants with beer and wine licenses, food costs, rent and maintenance. A complete picture of the current or future state of a restaurant can't be concluded on low liquor sales alone as proven by BlackFinn.
Will you miss BlackFinn American Grille? What do you think should take its place? Leave your comments below.
Updated: 11/4/2004 at 5:18 p.m.