WESTERLY — A stalwart restaurant that preceded the current wave of downtown food and beverage establishments has closed.
Christopher Champagne’s 84 Aleworks Brewing & Tavern, which started as 84 High Street and Café, closed its doors for good on Sunday night. Champagne purchased 84 High Street and Café in 2006. In late 2012, the restaurant moved to Canal Street and changed its name to 84 Tavern on Canal.
Last winter saw another name change, to 84 Aleworks Brewing & Tavern, as Champagne looked for a way to boost flagging revenues. But on Friday Champagne said the business was “no longer sustainable.”
“It has been a wonderful 13 years and we have been blessed to have so many wonderful guests and employees over the years. The last few years we have seen a downturn in business. This past winter was particularly tough to come back from,” said Champagne, who ran the restaurant with his wife, Julie.
The couple endured slow times in the downtown area, the flood of 2010, Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and a kitchen fire in 2013.
“It would have taken a significant investment to keep the business going. In the current business climate it would be irresponsible to keep incurring more debt to keep the business going,” Champagne said. “We tried to convert to a brew pub to incite new and steady business but could not hold out any longer for that to take hold. We are very sad that this run has come to an end. We had an amazing time and get to share so many amazing memories.”
Competition in the downtown restaurant and bar market doubled during the 13 years he owned his restaurant, Champagne said.
“We were one of a handful of businesses that anchored the downtown for years. Part of our success has helped attract more businesses to the area... In addition to the bars and restaurants a number of other types of businesses have been attracted downtown. The amount of different options that are available for the visitors to downtown has never been greater. The influx of businesses downtown over the years has strained the demand for parking as well. With the number of additional businesses downtown it increases the difficulty for a restaurant of our size to maintain a level of business that is sustainable,” he said.
For a time, at least, Champagne said he planned to take a break from the restaurant business.
“I plan to get out of the hospitality business for a while. I will enjoy spending more time with my family. It will be nice to have weekends and holidays off for a while. I don’t necessarily think I will be done in hospitality forever, but it will be a while before I am ready to return. I gave it my all and more, now it’s time to give my family the same,” Champagne said.