Special Report

Saddest Restaurant Closings of 2020

Source: Courtesy of Bay L. via Yelp

Minnesota: Fuji Ya
> Location: Minneapolis

Fuji Ya was probably the first Japanese restaurant in the entire state of Minnesota when Reiko Weston opened its doors in 1959. Over the years, it expanded and spawned offshoots, but it closed in 1990, two years after Weston’s death. In 1997, Weston’s daughter brought the place back to life and it thrived until early May of this year, when it closed again for what was supposed to be a temporary period. By the end of that month, however, the restaurant’s website was carrying the message: “Thank you for your support! Unfortunately we are closing our doors.”

Source: Courtesy of Sam A. via Yelp

Missouri: Cusanelli’s
> Location: St. Louis

The building Cusanelli’s occupies traces its history back two centuries, but this local favorite in the city’s Lemay neighborhood — featuring what it billed as “The Original St. Louis Style Pizza” — opened a mere 66 years ago. It became a popular family destination, and comments on the restaurant’s Facebook page sentimentally recalled first dates, birthdays, anniversaries, and other momentous occasions celebrated there. It was also on Facebook that the owners announced that Aug. 30 would be the restaurant’s last night of service, “Due to covid and unforeseen circumstances.”

Source: Courtesy of Winnie W. via Yelp

Nevada: Santa Fe Basque Restaurant
> Location: Reno

There used to be quite a few old-style Basque boarding houses/restaurants around Nevada, Idaho, and California, serving simple, hearty, multi-course meals in family-style portions. But their number is fast diminishing, and the most recent casualty is the 71-year-old Santa Fe. After closing for remodeling in 2017 and reopening last year, it seemed healthy enough. This summer, though, a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page read: “It’s official we have closed our doors. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE THAT HAS SUPPORTED US FOR THE LAST 71 YEARS. And a big thanks to all of our guests on our final night you made it an emotional yet awesome farewell.”

Source: Courtesy of Aureole via Facebook

New York: Aureole
> Location: New York City

“Moving through these uncertain times and with a changing industry landscape, we remain dedicated to offering our loyal patrons the very best in American cuisine,” wrote celebrity chef Charlie Palmer in mid-June on the Aureole website. Since then, he has closed this upscale 32-year-old fine-dining venue for good. What Palmer is offering instead includes “boutique-style take-out” plus wines and craft cocktails out of the premises. An Aureole catering operation remains up and running, and Palmer plans to eventually open a steakhouse on the site, with fewer seats to meet social distancing requirements. He has also left open the possibility of launching a smaller Aureole at another location at some future time.

Source: Courtesy of Blue Smoke

New York: Blue Smoke
> Location: New York City

Famed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s 18-year-old tribute to barbecue — credited with igniting the New York ‘cue scene — called it quits in early December. Also closed is Jazz Standard, the club downstairs from the restaurant, considered one of the city’s top jazz venues. A message on the Blue Smoke website says: “We have explored every avenue to arrive at a different outcome, but due to the pandemic and months without revenue — as well as a lengthy rent negotiation that has come to a standstill — we’ve reached the disappointing conclusion that there is no alternative but to close.” (A second Blue Smoke location, in Battery Park City, remains open.)