Riverside Sbraga Employees, Customers Blindsided By Restaurant Closing
Updated 7/19/16 2:00 p.m.
Riverside’s Sbraga & Company restaurant closed without warning Monday.
The Northeast Florida-inspired eatery was launched by reality show “Top Chef” winner Kevin Sbraga less than a year ago.
A one-line sentence addressed to vendors and employees posted on Sbraga’s door Monday read, "We’re sad to say the restaurant is closed and no longer operating."
Customers, like Sherman Rothwell, are also finding out this way.
“We were here from day one, when they first opened,” Rothwell said. "And we’re just very surprised that they would just close up with no warning.”
He and his wife live above the restaurant in 220 Riverside, the newly-built Brooklyn complex attached to Unity Plaza. Sherman had just walked down to see if the restaurant had really closed.
Sbraga was the first restaurant to open in Unity Plaza. Now HOBNOB and Brixx restaurants are up and running too.
Rothwell said Sbraga had good food and a crowd, but he noticed a few months ago it started cutting hours.
“They didn’t serve lunch anymore and then they just started opening up around 4 p.m.,” he said.
Sbraga employee are saying they found out about the closing this morning.
The last post on the Sbraga & Company official Facebook page was Tuesday celebrating its placing in a top-10 best of Jacksonville list.
Top chef season seven winner Kevin Sbraga owns another restaurant, Spraga, in Philadelphia, and a Philly.com article said a third restaurant of his closed May 2015.
After initially declining comment Monday afternoon, Sbraga spokeswoman Esha Dev sent a news release at 5:48 p.m. that said:
"As some of you may know already, the restaurant is closed. We care deeply about the well being of our team; it was not a Sbraga Dining decision to close the restaurant and lock employees out. We are saddened by the abrupt action that was taken, and are doing what we can to help everyone work through the transition."
Kevin Spraga posted on his Instagram account early Tuesday:
"It was not Sbraga Dining who closed Sbraga & Company, locked employees out with no notice, and put up an 'announcement' on the door. Sadly enough, I found out about this at the same time many of you did."
Spraga, who writes that he has family in Jacksonville, goes on to deny responsibility for the closing.
"I'm sure there are questions on the specifics of the situation that I likely can't answer now, but please know none of this was under my control or my decision," he wrote.
Editor's note: This article was updated with a quote from a news release sent by Sbraga spokeswoman Esha Dev, and with exerpts from an Instagram post from Kevin Spraga.
I want to take a moment to talk about today's events in the most candid way possible. It was not Sbraga Dining who closed Sbraga & Company, locked employees out with no notice, and put up an "announcement" on the door. Sadly enough, I found out about this at the same time many of you did. I have always cared deeply about my employees, and personally built the S&Co. team from the ground up. I'm heartbroken at how things have panned out. I'm sure there are questions on the specifics of the situation that I likely can't answer now, but please know none of this was under my control or my decision. I wanted to continue to thrive and grow in Jacksonville with the restaurant, and provide opportunities for my staff to do the same. I felt deeply connected to Jacksonville before the restaurant even opened, and not just because I have family here. Jacksonville is a beautiful, vibrant city with an unparalleled culinary community. I'm honored to have been a part of that for the time I was here, and ask for your patience as we sort through this closure. Sincerely, Kevin Sbraga A photo posted by Kevin Sbraga (@kevinsbraga) on Jul 18, 2016 at 7:48pm PDT