Indy Ice House Closing, Joins Indianapolis Restaurants Shutting as Home Delivery Beats Dining Out
The Indy Ice House Bar & Grill will be shuttering its doors after nearly 35 years in business. The Indianapolis-based restaurant did not give a reason for the closure. The Indy Ice House is just one in an ever-growing list of restaurants to close as a result of increased competition and changing consumer habits, including the rising appeal of food delivery services and waning appetite for dining rooms.
Indy Ice House Closing Ads to Growing List of Indianapolis Restaurants Shutting Down
After 34 years in business, the once-iconic Indy Ice House Bar & Grill is shutting down. The restaurant, which first opened its doors in 1983, is best known for its imposing, giant front door and neon signs. The hand-breaded tenderloin sandwich also used to have people lining up out the doors.
Not anymore. The current owners, Mark Stahl and his wife Cindy, purchased the south side restaurant in 2014 and thought they were buying a solid business. Whereas the restaurant used to move 300 to 600 meals per day, today, the lineups, party atmosphere, and celebrity appearances have been replaced with empty tables.
The original owner, Jerry Carter, sold the business in the early 2000s. The Stahls are the third owners. Mark is an information technologist and Cindy is a retired teacher. Mark jumped into the restaurant business because he saw a growing number of his coworkers lose their jobs. Fearing he might be next, Mark decided to buy the Indy Ice House as a financial backup.
It ended up being a money pit. The couple soon realized they paid $225,000 for a restaurant in trouble. In addition to being dated, the restaurant only added a POS system in 2014. The couple was also hit by rising wholesale food prices. On top of that, new restaurants, which catered to evolving tastes, opened in and around the downtown. The recession hit the south side and nearby industries, including a General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) metal-stamping plant, closed, leaving hundreds without work.
The rising popularity of food delivery services have also been a huge change for the broader restaurant industry. Foodies now want their fine dining and chicken wings brought to their doors.
For restaurants like Indy Ice House Bar & Grill, food services are not a lifeline. Delivery costs are an added expense to a restaurant’s already-razor-thin profit margins. After factoring in the costs associated with an outside delivery service, income can be as low as five percent–less than you tip the person for bringing it to the door.
The Indy Ice House is actually up for sale, but if no one is willing to plunk down $110,000, it will serve its last meal on November 4.
Other Indianapolis Restaurants That Closed in 2017
It’s been a tough couple of years for the Indianapolis restaurant industry. Since the start of 2016, close to 40 restaurants have closed in Indianapolis, and the momentum looks like it is going to carry on into 2018.
Even being a successful upstart doesn’t guarantee success. LongBranch, an Asian-fusion saloon and cocktail bar, was named Best New Restaurant, but it faced financial troubles and had to shut its doors after just six months, laying off 12 employees in the process.
The Owner’s Wife, which opened in February, served its last meal in June. The reason? “The people just didn’t come,” said owner Ted Miller. “So the smartest thing for us to do was just cut our losses and get out of there quickly.”
Outliers Brewing Co., which was next door to The Owner’s Wife, also closed. GT South’s Rib House, on Indianapolis’s northeast side, unexpectedly closed as well. The owners did not give a reason.
Fountain Square’s Marrow was only open for 18 months before it closed its doors. Chef John Adams said the restaurants was buzzing for six months after it opened in November 2015, “and then the rest was just sort of sustenance.”
In February 2017, the Indianapolis restaurant industry took a big hit when Greg Hardesty announced his seven-year-old restaurant Recess was closing. Hardesty is a four-time James Beard semi-finalist chef.
Other Indianapolis restaurants to close recently. Max & Irma’s Greenwood location closed because it was underperforming. The award-winning R. Bistro closed in part due to growing competition.
The dog-friendly Barking Dog Café closed after the landlord refused to renew the lease and Georgia Reese’s shuttered its doors due to a lack of business. Don Pablo’s closed all of its Indianapolis Tex-Mex restaurants when it filed for Chapter 11. The company said it failed because of a combination of competition and overall weakness in the casual dining sector.
Scratch food truck ran out of gas after a couple of back-to-back slow winters and Bourbon Street shuttered its doors following declining sales and an owner looking to retire.
Monom Food Company in Broad Ripple closed without warning. The owner stated, “There are private internal matters as to why we had to close the way that we did.”
BARcelona Tapas abruptly closed doors on the Labor Day weekend. Boogie Burger closed its doors on September 11 and Spice Box Café, an Indian fusion restaurant, closed on September 30.
Indianapolis has been declared the “most underrated food city in the U.S.”–a fact not lost on the city’s restaurant owners. Being underrated means you make great food. It also means no one has discovered you. That’s bad for business.
It’s not just that restaurants are closing. Lots of restaurants are also opening in Indianapolis, but this has created a fiercely competitive landscape, smaller market share, and tighter margins. This has made it even tougher for those restaurants that are barely hanging on.
“Ice House is the next Indianapolis restaurant closing,” Indy Star, October 20, 2017.
“Why LongBranch closed: ‘We literally just ran out of money’,” Indy Star, May 23, 2017.
“Fountain Square’s Marrow is another Indy restaurant closing,” Indy Star, June 10 2017.
“Pioneering Indy restaurant Recess is closing,” Indy Star, February 2, 2017.
“These are all the recent Indianapolis restaurant closings,” Indy Star, July 13, 2017.
“These are the latest Indianapolis restaurant closing,” Indy Star, October 20, 2017.