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Business Brief: With Chomp Chomp, Burro Bar Out, The Elbow Takes A Scrape

Jessica Palombo
A line stretches out the front door of Chomp Chomp at lunch time on May 3.

This could be the last week a popular downtown eatery has its doors open on Adams Street. The quirky sandwich shop Chomp Chomp is relocating to Avondale this month. At the same time, neighboring Burro Bar is closing for good.

For this week’s “Business Brief,” analyst John Burr and WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo headed downtown to find out what the moves mean for the entertainment district called The Elbow.

Credit John Burr
Mark Lynn runs a sandwich to a table at Chomp Chomp.

Their first stop was Chomp Chomp, where co-owner Mark Lynn was struggling to keep up with all the orders from a lunch line that stretched far down the sidewalk out his front door.

But even with lunch crowds like this, Lynn says the customer base just isn’t big enough during dinner times and on weekends. Outside of large events like Art Walk, he says it’s hard to keep a steady flow of customers in a neighborhood without any homes. Add to that a recent rent hike, and he and his partners saw the upcoming move as the only way to grow their four-year-old business.

“We moved down here with the idea of breathing some new energy to downtown and helping out with the revitalization of it—food aside—trying to establish a cool culture downtown,” he said. “And that’s something that we would love to do in the future, but right now, it’s kind of like we don’t get to that point unless we do this first, you know?”

Lynn says he feels like he’s passing the coolness torch to his friend, Duane De Castro, who co-owns 1904 Music Hall and, as of last fall, Spliff’s Gastropub, both around the corner from Chomp Chomp on Ocean Street.

De Castro at bar
Credit John Burr
Duane De Castro opened 1904 Music Hall about four years ago and Spliff's Gastropub last year.

Sitting at the bar of 1904 Music Hall, De Castro says he’s sad to see Chomp Chomp and Burro Bar go, but he’s optimistic about the district overall.

“I think there’s more things coming in anyway, so, yeah, I don’t think The Elbow’s going anywhere. It seems like it’s still growing,” he said. He points to three highly anticipated additions on Bay Street: Cowford Chophouse, Bold City Brewery and Intuition Ale Works, which is relocating from Riverside.

He also admits it would be hard to sustain Spliff's Gastropub if it weren't for the music venue. The live shows draw people downtown, and the restaurant gives them something to eat afterward, he says. But he's hopeful more and more people will see downtown as a place to live over the next few years. 

And Chomp Chomp owner Lynn says he's looking forward to that too. He hopes to reopen downtown after the Avondale location takes off.