Philly's first Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga opened his Jacksonville, Florida restaurant Sbraga & Company less than a year ago to rave reviews, but as of this morning, the restaurant is permanently closed. The southern restaurant at 220 Riverside's Unity Plaza opened in November of 2015 as Sbraga's first outpost outside of Philadelphia. He brought with him his faithful chef de cuisine Greg Garbacz and then, later on, Justin Petruce of Petruce et al to staff up down south.
Employees, however, weren't notified of the closure until they read the closed-for-good note addressed to them and the restaurant's vendors posted onto the door this morning. According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, employees had "zero warning", not even an opportunity to collect their belongings. Apparently, the closure was spurred by a landlord dispute.
This is the second restaurant of Sbraga's little empire to close suddenly and within a year of its opening — Juniper Commons being the first. As of now, the Sbraga Dining organization has "no comment" regarding the situation, but more information should be disclosed later today. Meanwhile, Sbraga is working to open his second Fat Ham in the King of Prussia mall.
Updated July 18, 5:49 p.m. Sbraga Dining issued this statement regarding the recent events in Jacksonville, FL:
We are so appreciative of the team members of Sbraga & Company, as their hard work and commitment has been truly remarkable. 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.
Updated July 19, 9:35 a.m. Late last night, Kevin Sbraga took to Instagram to talk about yesterday's events "in the most candid way possible." Read below:
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