Churrascaria Braza has abruptly closed all three of its restaurants, including the Constitution Plaza location in downtown Hartford, which opened just three months ago.
The Brazilian chain opened its first restaurant eight years ago in Hartford's West End.
Peter Donohue, general manager for Capital Properties' Constitution Plaza holdings, said Monday that the restaurant at 10 Constitution Plaza — formerly occupied by Spris — closed a week ago. The Farmington Avenue restaurant in Hartford's West End closed the week before, and the Waterbury location on Bank Street also has closed, Donohue said.
Julio Faria, the restaurant's owner, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Nearby merchants saw people taking kitchen equipment out of Braza on Farmington Avenue Saturday, including ovens. Tables and chairs are still out in front.
Doug Cohen, the volunteer president of the Colonial Theater Renaissance Corp., the landlord of the 4,500-square-foot Farmington Avenue space, said the restaurant was paying more than $5,000 a month in rent.
"We have already been in contact with some restaurateurs to lease the space, and we've found a lot of interest in it," Cohen said. "I spoke to someone who's been involved with buying and selling over a hundred restaurants. He was very enthusiastic about that space. I'm hoping by the end of the summer we'll have somebody."
He said he hoped the new tenant would be a long-established restaurant operator, well-known to the Hartford region, as the original owner of Braza was.
The Hot Tomato's restaurant group owner, Tom Altmann, signed a 15-year lease in 2002 to operate the restaurant.
When Braza opened in 2004, he said, "The karma is right for this concept. It feels right.''
The space at 10 Constitution Plaza is also being marketed for lease, Donohue said.
The state borrowed $5 million in order to tear down the grand movie palace that once stood on the site, construct the building that housed Braza, buy parcels that made space for a parking lot and driveway for the restaurant, and renovate the building next door that once housed the Roo Bar.
The restaurant had to invest a minimum of $200,000 to match the millions from the state. The owner of the theater donated it to the Colonial Theater Renaissance Corp. in the late 1990s.
The idea was that the project would revitalize the West End neighborhood, but some residents were angered that the money wasn't used to refurbish the theater itself, built in 1926, with 1,200 seats. It had been closed for more than 20 years when it was torn down.
"They were given the building, plus 5 million. they were not stewards of the building, they were not stewards of the 5 million," complained JoAnne Bauer, a West End resident since 1993.
She said the nonprofit planned to put a more affordable restaurant in the former Roo Bar, and that hasn't happened.
"The West End has quite a range of incomes," she said, and many could not afford Braza, she said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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