Food & Drink

Southland Drive restaurant closes a year after owner pleaded for business

Co-owner of Willie’s Locally Known asks fans to come dine at the restaurant

Wilson Sebastian posted a heartfelt plea on the restaurant’s page, asking fans to come eat there more often, warning that otherwise the restaurant wouldn’t be there much longer.
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Wilson Sebastian posted a heartfelt plea on the restaurant’s page, asking fans to come eat there more often, warning that otherwise the restaurant wouldn’t be there much longer.

One of Southland’s biggest names has closed: Willie’s Locally Known shut its doors Sunday.

The restaurant, bar and music venue had been on Southland since 2016. It opened on North Broadway in 2012, where it built a following for about five years.

“We just gave it a hell of a shot,” said Wilson Sebastian, co-owner of Willie’s, on Monday. “We gave it our all, had incredible staff, great support from the community and from the neighborhood but just couldn’t make it fly.”

Sebastian said he is looking at ways “to move forward with the brand,” but right now he is “focused on finding spots for our employees, getting severance packages together.”

Greer Companies also were co-owners in Willie’s Locally Known. Greer Companies also owned the failed Coba Cocina and are investors in local concepts Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen, Honeywood and Corto Lima. Lee Greer said in an email that they had no current plans for the space.

The restaurant will fill all orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, Sebastian said. They will be in touch with customers about other catering orders, he added. Customers can pick up turkeys between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, he said.

All scheduled shows are canceled “until further notice,” according to an email to Willie’s patrons.

Sebastian posted the news on the restaurant’s Facebook page, where patrons were quick to lament its demise.

Almost exactly a year ago, Sebastian posted a heartfelt plea on the restaurant’s page, asking fans to come eat there more often, warning that otherwise the restaurant wouldn’t be there much longer.

At the time, Sebastian warned that the struggled documented by a recent Herald-Leader article about “carnage” among local restaurants was real: “Hey guys, I just want to take a minute and talk about the news that’s going on about the restaurant business in Lexington, Kentucky, right now. ... it’s legit. It’s very very difficult right now for us. Especially the locally owned independent restaurants.”

Business had fallen off sharply on weekdays, he said, and without a change, things would be “unsustainable.”

Last year, he blamed the influx of new restaurants at The Summit at Fritz Farm, where about two dozen new places opened in just a few months. This year, the restaurant business has remained challenging; although no single new development has dominated the scene, dozens of new restaurants have opened inside and outside of New Circle Road.

People were supportive after the video, he said, but it just wasn’t enough to keep the existing restaurant going.

Last week, Brasabana, a popular Cuban restaurant, announced it had closed and that Lexington Diner would be moving from downtown to the spot on Lane Allen.

Brasabana restaurant on Lane Allen Road had closed it doors, and Lexington Diner located in downtown seeks to move into its spot and open in December.

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