Last Friday afternoon (August 9) the Courier-Journal eventually caught up with the Mirin New Albany closing story, which I’d already broken at Food & Dining Magazine. As of today (the 16th), the News and Tribune still hasn’t noticed.
But dude, the newspaper is RIGHT ON TOP of what happens within a three-block radius of the newspaper’s Jeffersonville digs.
Mirin’s location in Louisville remains vibrant, and owner/chef Griffin Paulin was open and up front with the C-J as to the issues he experienced in New Albany.
… What ended up giving, he said, was six months of losing money incrementally — and then losing $5,000 in one day when the restaurant lost power on Aug. 7 and lost all of its food.
Paulin said he didn’t blame the New Albany community. He thinks the concept could have worked if he could have held out longer. But multiple closures due to weather damage, a long-pending liquor license and inconsistent traffic added up, and the calculated risk he took fell flat.
As we’ve discussed numerous times in this space, money almost always is the issue — whenever someone says it isn’t about the money, the opposite is true — but the precise monetary details invariably are subject to a matrix of numerous reasons, most often connected, although at times truly random.
The heavy metal commentator Eddie Trunk is fond of saying that somewhere around 95% of music-related disputes are about money, and this percentage probably reflects reality in the food and drink sector.
Not enough money = not much of a future.
At the same time, each of these cases is entirely unique. It’s all about location — except when it isn’t. Prices were too high, or not high enough. Bad service and noisy ambiance, too-hard barstools, unclean bathrooms, filthy smoking areas, awful on-line ratings; the list goes on and on, with enough variables to prompt doctoral dissertations.
I don’t know Griffin, who is a colorful figure in a vocation heavily populated with them. I respect him tremendously, just like anyone else who chooses to enter the food and drink business. The pressures and stressors are many, and the rewards often alarmingly few.
Speaking personally, Griffin’s social media announcement last week about Mirin New Albany’s closing triggered me in an unexpected way, especially his comments about the gut-wrenching task of discharging employees.
Of course, I experienced the same emotional intensity when we closed the kitchen at NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse in 2014. Doing this killed a piece of me, and it’s still dead.
There were aspects of social media commentary following the Mirin New Albany closing announcement that strike me as important, but before I document them, allow me to repeat Griffin’s words in the C-J, because he clearly gets it.
“Paulin said he didn’t blame the New Albany community.”
Interestingly, several Mirin fans quite clearly did blame the community.
By contrast, residents of New Albany (and Southern Indiana) had a completely different view of the situation.
Admittedly I bristled a bit at those negative comments obviously coming from Louisville residents. I’m a fierce critic of New Albany’s shortcomings, and I’ll maintain that’s my prerogative given residency; we may fight like cats and dogs here in town, but don’t talk smack about us from similarly dysfunctional burgs located elsewhere.
Besides, the scene is markedly different downtown compared with the recent past — or else Griffin wouldn’t have chanced an outpost of Mirin here in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, it’s one metro area even if a state line happens to pass through the middle of it.
I might cock an eyebrow at New Albany residents not knowing about Mirin’s presence downtown, and yet (a) it was only six months, and (b) in a car-centric community where walking is still regarded as suspicious to the point of communism, Mirin New Albany was hurt by the lack of a prominent outdoor sign.
Would the advent of the Reisz Mahal have helped pull Mirin New Albany through the doldrums? Maybe, except I’m having trouble imagining the aesthetic assassins who populate Gahan’s regime finding comfort in sophisticated Asian noodles. Gahan’s more the Bud Light and White Castle ramen sort, and his minions shamelessly pander to his stunted tastes in an effort to avoid 2:00 a.m. phone calls.
Finally, if you’re saying to yourself, “nothing works out in that space,” then consider how many tenants preceded Adrienne’s in their space on Market Street.
Best wishes to Griffin Paulin and his Louisville culinary team. I appreciate your efforts, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out here in New Albany. I know what it feels like when the lights go out.
Here’s a final thought: