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RED BANK: BROADWAY GRILLE’S CURTAIN CALL

John Copeland at his Red Bank restaurant on Saturday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508After two decades, Red Bank’s Broadway Grille is closing this week, a victim of rising rent and declining receipts, owner John Copeland tells redbankgreen‘s Retail Churn.

“Expenses are just getting too high,” Copeland said, citing among other costs his rent, which is set to surpass $10,000 a month starting September 1.

“It seems like for the last two years, I’ve been working for the state of New Jersey and the landlord,” he said.

Not to be confused with the Broadway Diner one block west on Monmouth Street, the Broadway Grille has occupied a portion of what used to be called the Red Bank Mini Mall, at the southwest corner of Monmouth and Broad streets, for 22 years.

Copeland founded the restaurant in 1991, in his hometown of Manasquan, choosing a thematic niche – Broadway shows – between the then-new Planet Hollywood and hard Rock Cafe chains. He opened the 88-seat Red Bank store a year later.

Now a Red Bank resident, Copeland sold the Broad Street restaurant in 2005, but wound up taking it back in 2009, when the buyer defaulted on their agreement. In the interim, he opened a hotel the Inn at Manasquan, which he’s since closed.

Since returning to the restaurant, Copeland has seen steady erosion to his receipts.

“It’s been down five-to-seven percent each year,” he said. “Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but multiply that over five or six years.”

He doesn’t blame the recent proliferation of restaurants downtown, by the way. He thinks that’s a positive, in that it draws visitors.

But the strong growth of Pier Village in Long Branch “really hurt” Red Bank, he said.

Is he melancholy over the closing? He’s past that, Copeland said. In fact, he kind of regrets not closing at the start of the summer, because business has been so bad. But he stayed open just to provide jobs to the 20-plus kitchen and wait staff, many of whom are local high school and college kids.

The good news, though, is that most of those not going back to school have found work elsewhere, he said.

Now, Copeland says, he plans to travel and enjoy his first Thanksgiving in 23 years with family in Florida. Not that Broadway Grille was open that day, but it had to be the next night, for the downtown tree lighting, which meant he couldn’t be away.

He may even open another restaurant or inn somewhere at the Shore, he says.

The building is owned by Atlanta Realty Associates in Oakhurst, according to Monmouth County tax records.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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