The Coop, the restaurant that was meant to do for fried chicken what John Rivers had done for barbecue, will close on Sunday, July 16. The announcement was made in an open letter to customers posted on the Coop’s social media accounts and signed by “John and the entire 4R family.” The reason for the closing according to the letter is that “current market rates are unfortunately well beyond what our little business can justify in renewing the lease.” In characteristic Rivers rosiness, he said the increased rent was “[a] testament to the vibrancy of the Winter Park market…”
The Coop opened in August of 2014 in a building on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and West Morse Boulevard that had previously been a Thai restaurant and, coincidentally, a barbecue joint that never opened. At the time, the 4 Rivers Smokehouse brand was, well, smoking and it seemed that the Rivers magic was well suited for the fried chicken sector, which was undergoing a rebirth of popularity thanks to food trucks and others serving chicken and waffles.
The Coop’s menu also featured other Southern dishes, such as chicken and dumplings, chicken fried steak and chicken pot pie. The restaurant even diverged from the 4 Rivers policy of keeping the barbecue restaurants closed on Sundays, offering breakfast and lunch that day.
Asked if he plans to reopen the quick-serve concept elsewhere, Rivers said in a text message Monday, “Nothing on the horizon at the moment.” He added, “Focus for now is a smooth closing and on finding homes for the employees.”
That should be easy: the 4 Rivers Smokehouse brand has grown to more than a dozen locations.
Here’s the full letter from The Coop: