Germantown Craft House, which closed unexpectedly on Monday, will reopen in late January as a smokehouse concept called the Devil’s Due, per co-owner Beau Kerley.
The original restaurant, a sister to the Crescent Hill Craft House, opened during the summer to much fanfare and a complete renovation of the space at 1030 Goss Ave. But after a strong opening, the restaurant floundered. Worse, it weakened the original flagship restaurant.
“As we lost the shine from opening, we ended up cannibalizing the other Craft House,” Kerley said Monday night, which put both in jeopardy. The hope is the clientele who had left Crescent Hill for Germantown will return.
When word of the closure spread, social media lit up with speculation, with one of the key suppositions being it was based on ticket price. Kerley doesn’t believe that was the main factor, if it was a factor at all.
“The biggest thing I think we did wrong was we thought being 10 minutes apart from the other [Craft House] would be enough,” Kerley said, adding that the new restaurant took roughly $8,000 in sales away from the original every week. “It’s not. We’re too close.”
He notes that other concepts in the area have similar food and drink prices, and conceded that, “I think the restaurant may be a little stuffy.”
Kerley says the decision was nearly as abrupt as the announcement, as ownership, which includes Pat Hagan, a founder of Bluegrass Brewing Company, had hoped to stay open through the end of the year.
“We were going to end up doing permanent damage to the whole company if we were going to do that,” he said, so the 20 Germantown Craft House employees were informed of the closure in a meeting. “We made it where we had to do an overabundance of sales to make the building work. We kind of dug ourselves a pretty deep hole. It’s our own fault.”
The hope, Kerley says, is to move as many of the employees as possible to the Crescent Hill Craft House and/or BBC temporarily, and to re-hire as many as possible to work at the Devil’s Due.
Of course, employees were shocked and understandably upset. One former Germantown Craft House employee, who spoke to Insider Louisville under the condition that their name not be used, mourned the loss of a tight-knit group of co-workers.
“Twenty people unexpectedly lost their jobs today,” the former employee said. “Those people are some of the best people and hardest workers I’ve ever met. We are all devastated.”
“It’s been a tough day, obviously,” Kerley conceded during an interview Monday evening. “We’re going to try to take as good of care of everybody as we can. There were a lot of tears this morning.”
Kerley didn’t elaborate on the menu for the Devil’s Due, which is a play on the bourbon-related phrase “the devil’s cut,” as it is still being built by Chef Tim Smith. However, he indicated that smoked meats will be the basis, along with other dishes “not touched by smoke.”
The new restaurant will be a fast-casual concept, which eliminates the need for servers. The changeover will involve a major redesign of the space, with the dining room area becoming a game room of sorts, with arcade games, foosball, and a shuffleboard deck. Most of the seating will be in the space that is currently the bar area and, during warm weather months, outside.
Instead of 50 taps of all-regional beer, the bar will have about 25 taps, with several of those dedicated to domestics, which lend themselves to happy hour pricing. The rest will be imports and craft beers, with a few local brews. A key feature will be bourbon and a series of frozen bourbon cocktails.
As for the food, Kerley estimates $10-$12 per customer, not including alcohol, which also will better enable the Devil’s Due to be open for lunch.
And now that the tide has turned, Kerley said there is at least some relief in knowing the restaurant is heading in a more positive direction.
“I’ve never had a restaurant closed before,” he said. “I laid in bed and had an epiphany; instead of digging deeper, we’re going to try to fix the problem.”