Special Report

Most Popular Restaurants That Won't Reopen After the Pandemic

Source: Courtesy of Elmo's Diner Carr Mill, Carrboro, NC / Facebook

North Carolina: Elmo’s Diner
> Location: Carrboro

In a lengthy Facebook message posted Sept. 18, Elmo’s — famous for almost 30 years for its all-day breakfasts — announced that it was permanently closed. “We cannot wrap our heads around how we can safely serve people and stay distant from our co-workers and our customers,” read the statement in part. “We cannot wrap our heads around how limited capacity can pay the bills or how take-out can be enough to outweigh the risks for both us and our customers.” The message adds, “while scrutinizing the whole of our situation, our moral and financial obligations we realized we have been waiting in denial for a miracle.”

Ohio: Lola Bistro
> Location: Cleveland

Cleveland’s best-known chef, Michael Symon, announced on Nov. 20 that he was shutting down his flagship downtown bistro permanently. The 23-year-old Lola closed at the start of the pandemic, then reopened for limited service on June 25. Several Lola employees tested positive for COVID-19 the week of Nov. 16, but Symon’s business partner, Doug Petkovic, told Cleveland.com that the closure wasn’t related to those cases. “We closed because the pandemic made the situation untenable at the level of business we were doing,” he said.

Ohio: Sokolowski’s University Inn
> Location: Cleveland

“They don’t get much more Cleveland than Sokolowski’s,” according to Cleveland Scene. Founded in 1923, the restaurant served Polish specialties to celebrities (including more than one U.S. president) and ordinary locals alike. Facing health issues, third-generation proprietors Bernie and Mike Sokolowski, who owned the place with their sister Mary Lou, had planned to close the place for good after their 100th anniversary two years hence. “Covid just sped up our decision unfortunately,” Mike told a reporter for Cleveland’s WOIO-TV.

Oregon: Beast
> Location: Portland

“One of the early stars in Portland’s culinary renaissance,” as Eater put it, 13-year-old Beast is history. Owner Naomi Pomeroy explained to The Oregonian’s Oregon Live website that her tiny restaurant — which occupied only about 800 square feet, including kitchen, prep area, and bathroom — could serve only about two dozen customers at two communal tables, even in pre-COVID times. Now, she said, she’d have room for only eight customers to observe social distancing protocols. Pomeroy told Eater that she might reopen Beast in a larger space once the pandemic has passed, and in the meantime plans to install a neighborhood market, called Ripe Collective, in its former premises.

Oregon: Pok Pok restaurants
> Location: Portland

James Beard Award-winning chef-restaurateur Andy Ricker, whose Pok Pok restaurant group specializes in northern Thai and Vietnamese cooking, announced on Instagram in mid-June that he was closing four of his six Portland locations. It was originally reported that the shuttered restaurants would include Pok Pok NW, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and two outposts of Pok Pok Wing. The original Pok Pok would reopen, it was said, and a third Pok Pok Wing might also come back to life. Currently, however, the Pok Pok website states that “All Pok Pok restaurant locations are closed for on site service,” adding that meal kits and some prepared food is available for pickup at the company’s commissary kitchen.