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Cafe Red Closed

Written By Scott Joseph On September 4, 2014

Cafe RedFiled under News That Will Surprise No One: Cafe Red has closed. I had reported earlier that the Church Street restaurant had severely cut its hours. That seemed to be a last ditch effort to stanch the negative cash flow that comes when a business is putting out more than it’s taking in.

But here’s something that might surprise: The owners, chiefly the same folks with the wildly popular Graffiti Junktion concept, are keeping the lease and plan to reopen with a different concept this fall. Tom Hughes, one of the owners, says that the landlord is constructing a fenced area in front of the space at 54 W. Church St., directly below the Mad Cow theater, that will allow for an outdoor patio.

“We’re going to rethink the whole look of the place, the feel of it,” Hughes tells me. He said they’d like to add live music and an indoor-outdoor Key Westy ambience.

Hughes admits that Cafe Red didn’t work. “I really didn’t hit a home run with that one,” he says. “OK, I struck out on three pitches.” Why is a curiosity. When I reviewed the restaurant I found flaws but nothing that wasn’t fixable. And, not curiously, the place produced a mean burger that still drew some loyal lunch fans at the end, although the owners specifically did not want to focus on burgers, which is the forte of Graffiti Junktion. (It should also be noted that Cafe Red took over the space from a Five Guys franchise that also failed.)

Meanwhile, the Graffiti Junktion brand continues to flourish, with a newly opened restaurant in Tampa, the first GJ outside Greater Orlando. So maybe the Cafe Red episode is just one of those ways nature gives successful people a slap, an effort to remind them that it isn’t always easy.

Hughes says they’re looking for an October reopening in advance of the debut of the performing arts center and the return of Magic games at the arena.

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