It's a rough day for the Bull City in The New York Times today.
First, we have the unfortunate relegation to a second-tier market in the release of some top-shelf, award-caliber films, as dourly noted by Sam Stephenson of Duke's Center for Documentary Studies; major film studios' more cautious releases of Oscar candidates has meant 'Revolutionary Road' hasn't hit Durham, though Stephenson adds that "we usually do pretty well here." (Still, take heart, film buffs -- the Carolina and other local theaters have seen the debt of a number of films, including "Synecdoche, New York," "Milk" and "Frost/Nixon" that have been in limited release in other urbs and burbs.)
Next up: on the heels of last week's announcement that legendary New York steakhouse Ben Benson's would be delaying its Bull City arrival in the American Tobacco Campus, though, comes an interesting tidbit from the Old Grey Lady's Dining section, which today interviews the long-time restaurateur on what life's like in running a major steakhouse in a down economy:
“Up to date we’re off 6.2 percent,” he went on. “In the restaurant business, if you’re off between 5 and 10 percent, you’re knocking profits down 25 percent...."
I appreciated his honesty. But he doesn’t have a crystal ball. “In the ’89 recession we were resistant,” he said. “After 9/11 we bounced back. But this is lingering. Last summer, we were supported by the Japanese and European tourists who thought we were an inexpensive restaurant. I’m concerned about whether they’ll be back this summer.”
All things considered, though, he’s doing pretty well. “I have a loyal base,” he said. Even his customers at Lehman Brothers, now Barclays, in the building upstairs, and UBS, across the street, are still coming, especially at lunch. “People who usually go to steakhouses every other week now are going once a month,” he said. “This place may not make any money next year, I don’t know. I held back money this year, in case. However we got through before, we’ll get through again.”
Though the article makes no reference to Benson's Durham plans, this fits the reports from last week that Ben Benson's pause is related to the economic slowdown -- making the restaurant's debut in Durham a matter to check in on once macroeconomic trends improve, it seems.