Business

Bakers 360 restaurant atop Chase tower closes

From left, Geraldyne Tiu, Kari Shipp and Hannah Foote had drinks at Bakers 360 last August. Bakers owner Steve Taylor said the venue was popular as a nightclub but it struggled as a restaurant, and state law required more than half of sales to be from food.
From left, Geraldyne Tiu, Kari Shipp and Hannah Foote had drinks at Bakers 360 last August. Bakers owner Steve Taylor said the venue was popular as a nightclub but it struggled as a restaurant, and state law required more than half of sales to be from food. © Mark Cornelison

Bakers 360, the restaurant and nightclub on the top floor of the Chase bank building in downtown Lexington, closed this week.

"This is the second year in a row that we hit the summer in Lexington and business just absolutely dried up for us downtown," owner Steve Taylor said.

The restaurant side of the business struggled ever since its opening a little more than two years ago, Taylor said.

"We had a lot of issues early on where people thought of us as more of a nightclub instead of a restaurant, but the whole time we were trying to be a restaurant," Taylor said. "When we opened the doors, 30 people showed up for dinner and 700 showed up to party and drink."

"I talk to people every day, and they say, 'That's where my kids go to party,'" Taylor said. "The parents don't think about coming down here to dine."

That also got the restaurant in trouble with liquor officials, he said. State law requires licensed bars and their entrances to be at street level; Bakers 360 occupied the sprawling 12,500-square-foot 15th floor of an office tower.

Because of that, it couldn't be just a bar. More than half of the restaurant's sales had to be food, and that was always problematic, Taylor said.

"We tried to open for lunch, but we could never get any kind of thing going at that time," he said.

There was an effort made in 2009 to repeal the state law, which dated to the 1940s. The measure was passed by the state Senate but died in the House. One of the proponents of the bill was Vince Carlucci, who has opened Skybar in the penthouse of a building on Cheapside.

Carlucci could not be reached Friday for comment. Liquor authorities declined to say whether they were investigating Skybar as they did Bakers 360.

But Bakers' problems extended beyond the liquor issue to just a steady amount of foot traffic, Taylor said.

"We had to invest almost $200,000 just to get through the summer last year," he said. "We did it last year because we were anticipating the (Alltech FEI World) Equestrian Games and the Christmas season. Both of those wound up being just mediocre at best.

"If I had to do it all over again, we would have closed last summer."

Taylor said the restaurant's ownership has the space as part of a 10-year lease, which he called "fair." "The lease was never the problem," he said.

In the meantime, the ownership plans to "catch our breath" and perhaps rework the restaurant to "be something completely different, ... maybe going to something a little lighter, like a sports bar," he said.

Taylor has experience in that concept, having started Arnie's in Northern Kentucky. He later sold it to his partner in the venture.

"We just don't have all the answers for what's going to work in this particular space," he said of the venue, which has panoramic views of Lexington in all directions, "but it's a beautiful space up here."

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