(Editor’s note: Both Terry Boyd and Steve Coomes contributed to this post.)
An insider left a tip on the IL Facebook page: “I see Mozzaria is now Quattro.”
Trust us … we don’t ignore tips.
So, we drove over to Fourth Street Live from the Insider Louisville World Headquarters in NuLu to snoop.
In about five minutes, employees were confirming Mozzeria will change to Quattro, Italian for “four,” as of Dec. 1.
Changing names at a restaurant is a bigger deal than you might imagine, with costs related to changing signage, menus, marketing and advertising. Getting the word out that “we’re new, different and better under this name than that one” is even tougher.
So, we wanted to know more.
We contacted Matthew Saltzman, CEO and managing partner of Pallas Partners, a Louisville management firm that took full ownership of Mozzaria following the departure of Matthew Antonovich back in August. Saltzman declined to comment, saying following Pallas’s new deal with Antonovich, owners are in a “quiet period” during which their lips are sealed.
He would only confirm that the change to Quattro is certain.
For those who might not recall the sticky mess of Mozzaria … It all began when Baltimore-based The Cordish Group. Cordish executives issued an RFP in October, 2011, seeking local restaurant operations to move in to Fourth Street Live. Several operators approached, including Varanese owner John Varanese, and BoomBozz concept founder Tony Palombino, passed on the offer. Their decisions now look prescient considering the bumpy ride for Mozzaria.
Mozzaria opened in May, but it wasn’t long before the business began to melt down. Back in August, we reported that Saltzman had sued Antonovich in Jefferson Circuit Court only weeks after Mozzaria opened, charging that Antonovich had diverted money from Mozzaria to the now-defunct Mozz. (Antonovich co-owned Mozz with Dr. Mushtaque Juneja, a local anesthesiologist, and Michael Cooper, who ran the front of the house.)
A glimpse of the problems at Mozzaria: In the suit, Antonovich and his attorney entered into evidence notes from Antonovich to Saltzman stating, “We have a severe cash flow crisis at Mozzaria due to underfunding the project. We have run out of cash and Mozzaria can’t pay food today!”
Employees in August confirmed to us that Cordish had served Mozzaria an eviction notice. However Pallas avoided eviction is a story we hope to tell later, because when it comes to Cordish, they usually don’t back down from forced exits.
Fact is, Fourth Street Live is a tough place to do business. Just ask the owners of The Pub, owned by Lexington, Ky.-based The Tavern Restaurant Group, who closed up shop Monday. The Pub says Cordish boosted its common area maintenance fees (a.k.a. CAMs) and it wasn’t paying. Cordish and the landlord, The Louisville Galleria, say otherwise.
The Tavern Restaurant Group has since been sued by the Louisville Galleria for not paying rent.
As we said, these restaurants’ problems aren’t necessarily a Cordish problem, but The Pub’s loss, the shuttering of Lucky Strike some time ago and the exit of Red Star Tavern (where Mozzaria made its home last May) at Fourth Street Live do make us wonder just how hard it is to operate profitably there.
Except for Ri Ra, the independently owned, Irish-themed mini-chain, the only longstanding operations are national chains. Ask any local operator who’s sniffed out business opportunities on that strip and they’ll tell you they’re pricey propositions.
That leaves little chance for local operations to get a foothold on Fourth Street Live, and it potentially could lead to future closures.
Here’s to hoping the second time will be the charm for Pallas, when it rolls out Quattro next month.