If I told you Moe’s Southwest Grill opened a handful of restaurants in Metro Hartford you might say, “yes, there is one in West Hartford and one in South Windsor.” You’d be right. They are in highly visible locations in Blue Back Square and in Evergreen Walk. But did you know there is also one in Downtown Hartford? However, if you walk around the streets of downtown you will never ever see it.
Yes, it is true. I noticed it the other day when we brought our daughter to Santa Claus at State House Square. There it was, inside down a hallway from the street, mere steps from the line of families waiting to see Santa. Guess what, Moe’s was closed. Insert amazed look here.
Years ago, I believe it was Hartford Courant columnist Tom Condon who wrote something along the lines of “it is hard to feel badly for a city with two left feet.” This is a perfect example.
State House Square has several excellent eateries, all of which have very limited hours, about 10-2, only Monday through Friday. According to some of the tenants, management of the Square does a terrible job of promoting these places. There is no list of restaurants sign on Main Street beckoning pedestrians to come inside to what many people believe is merely an office building. What is really strange about State House Square is that the prime location on Main Street has been empty since Bagel Boyz moved out a decade ago. It would be a great spot for Moe’s.
I also can’t figure out why the Square doesn’t open for special events. 45,000 people came to Hartford for the Connecticut Veterans Day Parade some were parked in their lawn chairs right in front of State House Square. It was closed!!! Can you even believe it? One of the biggest complaints from parade goers: no place to eat. The Old State House needs to open on Sundays, too, but that is a story for a other day.
Merchants will argue that “we don’t open because no one comes downtown on the weekends.” That is false. From the new residents to games to concerts, to churches, to Festival of Light, to parades, to the museums: people are here. Hundreds every Sunday. If you open, more will come.
Think about it, if the stores in Blue Back Square decided to close on Sundays, word would spread and no one would go there. If Downtown Hartford had a concerted effort to open on Sundays, word would spread and more people would show up.
The state has spent millions on Connecticut Convention Center, the Science Center and other projects. Developers have poured in millions of their own money. The Hartford Arts Council and Business for Downtown Hartford are also working very hard to bring more events to the city, and businesses should support their efforts by opening up. How a multi million dollar corporation like Starbucks can remain closed with a throng of parade goers outside their window is mindboggling. The company says it cares about the economic impact on the places where it has stores. Guess the coffee giant doesn’t care about Hartford.
Some people get this. Larry Gottesdiener of Northland has been criticized for his requirement that his new tenants open on Sundays, but I support his philosophy 100 percent. His goal is to make a thriving downtown. His residential tenants don’t move out on Sundays, why should his commercial tenants shut down on those days? One of his restaurant tenants closed after griping about a lack of business. This is the same eatery that Kara and I noticed was closed the night of a concert that had Pratt Street packed. People were actually sitting on the steps of that apathetic restaurant eating takeout from another restaurant. Yep. .”lack of business” was the REAL reason they later went out of business.
Gottesdiener should hold his ground. Hartford 21 could use something like a Vaughan’s, a JoJo’s, a Dish, a Hot Tomato’s, or any one of the other businesses that is open 7 days a week. Maybe a Moe’s like the ones in the suburbs.
I blogged about this Sunday problem last month. Something needs to change.