Highlands restaurant America. The Diner. closes due to low profits

America. The Diner. is now open 24/7. | Photo by Steve Coomes

America. The Diner. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Dustin Staggers announced Sunday evening he was closing America. The Diner. (ATD), which opened last September.

The restaurant was the fifth concept opened in 18 months by Staggers and his team, and the fourth restaurant closed in less than a year. The other three were Rumplings Slurp Shop, headed by former partner and chef Griffin Paulin, and a pair of Epic Sammich Co. shops, run by chef and former partner Eric Morris.

In a statement, Staggers wrote that ATD did not meet profit expectations and that closing it was the wisest choice. He also said he’ll refocus his efforts on Roux, his first restaurant opened in September of 2014, adding that it “is doing very well.”

ATD was an informal, broad menu restaurant that served breakfast all day, along with a raft of grilled sandwiches and salads, all plated in abundant portions and sold at modest prices. Staggers originally envisioned ATD as a 24-hour diner where his late-working peers, hungry second-shift workers and the bar crowd could get substantial sit-down meals. Hours were eventually modified to 7 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Staggers declined to speak on the record about the closure, saying only that he’s saddened by its early end.

“I’ve mentioned many times over the years that restaurants are still businesses, and when one fails to meet the bottom line on a consistent basis, at some point you have to make the call to close the doors,” his statement read. “As we move into the beautiful Louisville summer months, look forward to more events such as Oysterfest and our Crawfish Boils (at Roux), and don’t be surprised if you see some remodeling to Roux’s patio area soon!”

In a recent story about the closure of Epic Sammich, Staggers mentioned the possibility of adding a basement bar to Roux.

Meantime, he’ll also have to make good on back rent owed to Gary Matheis, owner of the 962 Baxter Ave. building in which ATD operated.

Matheis declined to be interviewed, saying, “We’re in litigation with those guys, so I really can’t say anything.”

According to multiple sources, rent on the 4,600-square-foot space ranges from $5,500 to $7,000 a month, depending on whether the next operator runs a limited-service or 24-hour restaurant. The cost variance is tied to the use of utilities, which are included in the rent. Those same sources said that even with utilities covered, the cost is high and the next operator would need to do exceptional sales volume to be profitable.