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Boom Boom Bye

Shockoe Bottom restaurant owner closes shop, blames nightclubs.

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Boom Boom Burgers, home of the $10 grass-fed burger, is closing just three months after opening in Shockoe Bottom.

The growing urban nightclub scene and “macro level pressures” in the Bottom were insurmountable, the restaurant’s owner, Joshua Eftekhari-Asl, writes in a letter to customers published by Richmond.com Thursday.

In the letter, Eftekhari-Asl blames the “lower class urban population of Richmond,” for Boom Boom’s demise.

“I mean, from the time we were breaking ground in the location I was being told that ‘If you want to do well here, you have to sell fried chicken’ and that ‘You have to carry turkey burgers and bologna burgers,’” he writes, “but with a concept-driven restaurant like ours, that wasn’t going to happen.”

Eftekhari-Asl, who refers to himself as "Mr. Boom," recanted the letter this afternoon on Richmond.com.

When the restaurant opened in early February, Eftekhari-Asl saw Boom Boom as a referendum on the local food movement. The burgers along with the rest of the menu were made only with ingredients from local food sources. “We want to show that a local food system is commercially viable,” he told Style Weekly. It’s a concept, however, that apparently didn’t work in the Bottom.

During the past year, the city’s oldest neighborhood has become ground zero in the debate surrounding nightclub-related violence. Last spring, two killings in the Bottom led to heightened police presence and a call from some longtime business owners to rein in nightclubs that some say draw large, unruly crowds.

Crowds of clubgoers congregate in the streets, says Scott Poates, owner of River City Diner on 17th Street, often resulting in fights.

“You can look out on the street on any given Friday or Saturday night and you can see a big rumble,” Poates says, dismissing the issue has anything to do with race. “If you see a bunch of people beating the hell out of each other, do you really want to come back?”

Still, it’s not exactly a new phenomenon. While the proliferation of nightclubs in the Bottom has hurt business lately, Poates has managed to cope. His diner has been in the Bottom for 17 years, after all.

“It’s been a problem for eight or nine years,” he says of the crowds. “If you operate your store the way you should operate your store, you can make a living down here.”

David Napier, president of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, says losing any business is cause for concern, but several of the nightclubs are working to raise the average age of nightclub patrons and eliminate the unruly crowds.

And perhaps it’s time for some to accept the fact that after 9:30 p.m., the predominant customer base in the Bottom consists of nightclub patrons, Napier says -- and, yes, they are mostly black.

“Well it’s kind of a tough situation if you’re not catering to the club that is open right next door to you,” Napier says of Boom Boom, which moved in next to an existing nightclub on Franklin Street. “If [Eftekhari-Asl] thinks that fried chicken and bologna burgers would sell, he has the opportunity. It’s something that I would have considered if I felt the same way. I’m not so wedded to a single product.”

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