Rustic Steak closes, another victim in the Church Street Massacre

Written By Administrator On January 5, 2009

Rustic Steak, the upscale Italian chophouse that opened only months ago, served its last meals New Year’s Eve. The next day, owner Manny Tato shut it down. “It was just too nice a restaurant for there,” Tato told me.

Rustic occupied the space that most recently had held the Improv Comedy Club but is more commonly known to longtime locals as the Rosie O’Grady’s space in the historical Church Street Station complex. Tato opened the restaurant in the midst of the economic downturn that somehow seems exponentially worse in downtown Orlando. Previously, Brick and Fire Pizza vacated its space in the complex and moved to South Orange Avenue near the Orlando Health medical center.

Tato said his monthly rent for Rustic Steak was close to $20,000 — you have to sell a lot of steaks to make that work. At the end, 11 workers were employed at Rustic. Tato said they all have been offered positions at his other restaurants. Tato owns two Spice Modern steakhouses and is planning another concept in the former Lee’s Lakeside space on Lake Eola. He said that project had been on hold but he expected the permits to be pulled as early as tomorrow.

Besides the economic crisis that is keeping many people away from upscale restaurants, Tato said many people are afraid to go downtown because of panhandlers and vagrants. He cited a recent attack on Patti Schmidt, owner of The Dessert Lady, also at Church Street Station, as an example. Schmidt was attacked as she left her dessert shop and was walking to her car. Someone choked her, threw her to the ground and stole her car.

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