John Brown Smokehouse is closing it’s original location on 44th Drive after eight years and rolling it up into it’s Mothership Meat Company restaurant in Dutch Kills according to the LIC Post and the company’s Facebook page.
The owner Josh Bowen cited 1. his lease ending 2. the uncertainty around Covid-19 and 3. the difficulty of operating on 44th Drive, stating that the latter was a “ghost town” and that “nothing will ever flourish there for decades.” As for the last point he went on to deride the “idiot local politicians” apparently in reference to the Amazon HQ2 debacle, which he was very vocal about.
While I might be in some agreement on the latter point, it’s kind of water under the bridge. Furthermore, while 44th Drive definitely was a ghost town when JB moved in, both the immediate blocks and those slightly further but still within walking distance have mushroomed in terms of apartments, for better or worse. And a lot more are under construction, including Queens tallest tower just up the road on 44th Drive. Plus JB’s always drew a big crowd, many of whom came from afar to taste the bbq and root for the KC teams – and KS teams.
Now I’m not one to dispute a very hardworking and successful entrepreneur, who literally made something out of nothing and was a pioneer of the 21st Century NYC BBQ scene, but I get the sense there may have been some nonpolitical personal business reasons involved in his decision, including trying to carry two establishments during a pandemic, one of which only has a year or so under its belt. Dutch Kills is no gold mine for restaurants these days.
Which leads back to Covid and the lease. Covid is reason enough to pull out of the restaurant business, lease or no. Yet it also should have a very beneficial effect for tenant with storefront leases coming up for renewal. And maybe this is a lease pricing stand-off, as the building owner sees a seemingly very profitable restaurateur and demographics that have gotten better and will continue to do so, while the proprietor is dealing with a massive shortfall during Covid and jawboning for pricing relief. My warning to hardball landlords, pandemic or not, is to remember M Wells Diner!1
Either way, though I’ll miss having JB’s nearby, I have nothing but admiration for Josh Bowen and what he brought here, and hope to visit his new location soon. By car.
JB Smokehouse Facebook Page – hope to have a grand re-opening in Sept./Oct.
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- it’s freestanding location on 49th Ave has been empty nearly a decade since M Wells decamped over a greatly inflated lease renewal on the heels of their huge success [↩]