July 16, 2008

Owner Closes 27th Avenue Bistro

By Lisa Monti, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Jul. 16--GULFPORT -- 27th Avenue Bistro has closed its doors at 1310 27th Ave. downtown.

Owner David Vickers, who took over the restaurant six months after Hurricane Katrina and did a complete remodel on the bistro, blamed what he described as the city's slow recovery, more competition and the faltering economy for the restaurant's demise.

"There's been nothing, zero, in downtown improvement whatsoever since the storm," he said. "It still looks like a hurricane-ravaged area. I'm the only thing down there besides a small bar beside me."

As other restaurants opened, his customers were pulled away, Vickers said.

"I had no drive-by traffic and sales just got to a point I couldn't handle it," he said.

The third reason he cited for closing is the economy, including the rising cost of fuel.

"If you've got $100 to spend on dinner for you and your wife, are you going to go to dinner or put gas in the tank to get to work?"

Vickers also owns An-Jac's barbecue restaurant off Courthouse Road and says that business will expand in a new development in Long Beach and possibly in the Margaritaville casino in Biloxi.

He also plans to reopen a bistro next year in Biloxi or Ocean Springs.

Lisa Bradley, Gulfport Main Street Association executive director, responding to Vickers' criticism about the recovery, said the city's administration "has done more for downtown Gulfport than any other before it."

She said, "We are saddened that the 27th Avenue Bistro has closed, but we do not feel that downtown's economic condition is reflected by this business' closing. Currently, there are several investors discussing the opportunity to reopen the Bistro in the same location."

Attorney John Harral, Main Street president, said, "Many businesses across the Coast, and downtown Gulfport is no exception, continue to face daunting post-Katrina challenges but we know that downtown is coming back. The facade grant work has begun and the streetscape work will be starting soon and both of those will transform the appearance of downtown.

"The city is aggressively moving to tear down the dilapidated buildings and we are supporting several large investment projects that will help us turn the corner on the downtown revitalization efforts by adding apartments, retail and office space downtown."


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