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According to a post on their Facebook page, Nathan and Griffin Walker were not able to reach an agreement with the owner of the building at 6245 Gravois, home of their first restaurant, Walker's Restaurant and Bar (the brothers live upstairs as well), and have decided to close it after only 11 months in business.
Wakler's opened in March of 2011 and, according to the post, closed after last night's service. There will be "one last, everything must go, sell the alcohol inventory on Friday night the 17th of February" and sales that evening will be on a cash-only basis.
Relish had a good feeling about Walker's and penned a First Look in the May 2011 issue of SLM. Like Piccadilly at Manhattan, The Shaved Duck, and Michael's in Maplewood, Walker's was the kind of neighborhood place we all wish we had in our own neighborhoods. There were smiles everywhere, and creativity and talent in the kitchen: the chicken wings were notable, fries were hand-cut, the onion rings and fish were hand-battered. It was a fun, affordable, everyday place. I joked that Walker's also had to be the cleanest kitchen in town, as the boys were the sons of Pam Walker, Director of the St. Louis City Health Department.
I have yet to speak to either brother, but why they were renegotiating a lease after one year is beyond me. That's a door that should never have been left open. Initial restaurant leases should be for three to five years, with a favorable lease renewal option after that. Combine a short lease with a successful restaurant and that often spells trouble. I'm speculating here. If the situation is other than it appears, I will report back in.
UPDATE: Today, I spoke with Nathan Walker who confirmed the arrangement with the landlord was indeed a one-year lease, with an option to then buy the building (as the brothers were living upstairs, this seemed like a reasonable plan). Although the business seemed to take off in that first year, the brothers did not anticipate a further downturn in the real estate market, nor did they forsee that major building improvements (new roof and plumbing) were needed. They were not able to secure a loan for the building and improvements, and therefore had no choice but to ask for an extension of the lease. Terms could not be reached, leaving the brothers little option but to shut Walker's down. Nathan told Relish he is looking at possibly getting out of the business and taking a job as a youth sports director. His final comment was "the whole thing's just a damn shame."
I watched the entire Walker family work day and night turning that space into a nice little neighborhood joint. I can only imagine if a new restaurant emerges in the now-turnlkey space, one that doesn't hold a candle to Walker's. Now that would be a damn shame.