The sudden closure of Ericka Burke’s restaurant Chop Shop on Friday night sent waves of surprise through food-savvy Capitol Hill denizens.
“It was sad and abrupt,” Burke said of the decision. “From the very beginning we were underfunded, and we hoped and prayed that if we can just get enough people in, we’ll cover it.” Unfortunately daytime business didn’t take off as she hoped, a development Burke attributes to massive construction across the street and being just a little early for the corporate office lunch business just now taking root on the Hill. Not to mention the proliferation of other new restaurants in the neighborhood.
Burke opened Chop Shop in July 2015, the anchor of Chophouse Row, a former musician rehearsal space reimagined as a collection of shops and restaurants, with office space on top. When I talked to her Sunday she made a point of thanking her investors and the staff, which went through some chef and general manager transitions as the restaurant established itself. “The first year is hard,” she says. “When you have a growing, changing neighborhood that’s kind of unstable, it’s a gamble.”
Earlier this year Burke also closed her Portage Bay mercantile, Canal Market, citing some confusion with the city about where the line fell between grocer and restaurant, and the neighborhood’s desire for more prosaic staples on those well-curated shelves.
Speaking of grocer-leaning restaurants in residential neighborhoods, Burke says she’s “going back home,” to Volunteer Park Cafe, her first restaurant, to grow business there and see where it takes her. “At some point you have to decide to go ahead or you have to call it. It just made the most sense for me and my life to call it.”