The fortunes of restaurants and bars are fluid, even in a normal year.
The pandemic rocked the restaurant and bar scene in 2020 more than it did in 2021, but its impact was still a big reason a number of owners gave for closing last year.
At least 31 Madison-area restaurants, cafes, coffeehouses, taverns and breweries closed permanently in 2020, starting with a few before COVID-19 hit. This year, at least 19 establishments have closed.
The following are the closures reported by the Wisconsin State Journal over the past year.
There were also three locations that moved: Double 10 Mini Hot Pot from Park Street to the Gateway Mall on Williamson Street, Pasqual’s canteen from Hilldale to Middleton, and I/O Arcade Bar from its original location at 720 Williamson St., to the former Prism and Plan B nightclub space two blocks away.
Red Rock Saloon, a downtown country-themed bar and restaurant, is moving closer to State Street at HopCat’s former location.
Meanwhile, news broke that two beloved establishments were closing at the start of the new year.
The Smokers’ Club, Madison’s longest-lasting supper club, is, after 69 years, making way for a five-story mixed-use redevelopment. Its last day will be Feb. 28, said co-owner Tom Schmock, whose parents Leonard “Smoky” Schmock and Janet Schmock founded the University Avenue steakhouse on the Near West Side in 1953.
After 10 years on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue, the owners of Bos Mead Hall and Bos Meadery are looking for a new home. They have to move because the building housing the hall and the hydromelerie is also being refurbished.
“We view this as an opportunity to purchase a building where we can put down roots for the long term,” said Colleen Bos, owner of Madison’s only commercial mead along with Peter DeVault.
Bos said they had to leave by Feb. 11 and doesn’t know when their last day will be.
Then there’s the case of another local favorite, Italian restaurant in Paisanwhich has seen two forced closures beyond its control, first in September due to structural problems in the building it anchors, and then this month after the owners failed to comply with required checks and inspections.
Paisan’s owners have temporarily moved employees to run its sister restaurant, Porta Bella, on Frances Street.
On a more optimistic note, the newspaper reported last year that 33 places opened in 2021 and five plan to open in the coming year. These will be discussed in an upcoming feature.