Faced with signing a five-year lease, the owner of a popular James Island café has decided to close his restaurant.
“With the pandemic and an unforeseen future, I was concerned,” says Thomas Smith, who three years ago opened Hen and the Goat on Folly Road. “It was a very tough decision to make, but it was the right decision.”
Smith saluted his loyal customers for their support, but said new expenses associated with the pandemic, such as costly takeout containers, sanitation supplies and back rent for the months during which South Carolina dining rooms were closed by law, darkened his financial forecasts.
Additionally, his revenue has slipped since Charleston restricted restaurants to 50 percent of their usual occupancy, a measure later mandated by the state.
Plus, Smith adds, “We lost out on tourist season. Just doing the numbers, I wasn’t getting to where I needed to be. As a business owner, staying afloat to pay your vendors is not the right business model to have.”
According to Smith, what worried him most was getting stuck with a building to sublet. He says he’s thankful for the “clean break” offered by his lease running out. “I don’t have investors, and I’ve got to protect my family,” he says of his decision to not renew.
At this point, Smith isn’t sure whether he’ll stay in the restaurant business; he notes it’s hard to work for someone else after being self-employed. His immediate first step is to “regroup.”
“The feedback I’ve gotten from Facebook and Instagram is really heartwarming,” says Smith, who on Wednesday announced the impending closure via social media. “You know, my head is held high. I’m not the only one suffering; the whole world is.”
Hen and the Goat will close after service on Sunday.
Another area lunch destination also took to Instagram on Wednesday to announce its run had ended. Like Hen and the Goat, One Broad in downtown Charleston attributed its closure to uncertainty.
“Unlike a hurricane, where you know it will pass in a couple of days, this disaster has no end in sight that we could strategize an end to without draining our energy and finances,” its owners posted.
Ben Johnson and Mike Ray of Normandy Farms in 2019 opened One Broad with chef Kevin Getzewich. It served sandwiches and toasts on the main level, and pizza in the basement.