Carlton's closes

We know the restaurant business can be tough, but Carlton's in the old Michie Company building at 609 East Market Street, may have set a record. Just two months after opening (and just days before making its Charlottesville Restaurant Week debut) the French-style restaurant with a budding soft-vocal jazz lounge scene has called it quits.

"Life is unpredictable," says owner Bernard Dukes. "We opened right into the slow season, and we just couldn't survive. I didn't want to get into debt up to my eyeballs."

Dukes promises that everyone will be paid, and that those who bought online Groupon-style coupons can send them to Carlton's address or stop by the restaurant to be reimbursed. Meanwhile, Dukes says there has already been some interest from potential buyers.

As you may have noticed in last week's issue of the Hook, Carlton's was one of the 20 local restaurants participating in Charlottesville Restaurant Week July 11-17

"It's a beautiful spot," says Dukes. "And everything is ready to go. It's one of the few places with a nice courtyard. Whoever takes it on is going to do fine."

Meanwhile, Carlton's music co-ordinator, Evan Mook, let friends know via email that he's helping to find a new owner, one who will presumably want a late night jazz scene.

"It was just starting to catch on, reviews were just coming out, and they were all fantastic," writes Mook. "Let's hope the right someone steps in to make it happen."

32 comments

Hard to keep anything in that space.

Wonder what they had to pay for rent? Hard to make it with the sort of rent being charged these days.

Typo.

"....presumably want to a late night jazz scene."

Looks like a word is missing....

what about a story on the two new restaurants that are about to open on 5th Street SE near the Melting Pot?

"Whoever takes it on is going to do fine."
Despite all evidence to the contrary.

I didn't even know it had opened. Hmmmm, next owner take note.

Sounds like insufficient starting capital. The old advice on restaurants was you needed six months working capital, then you might have a chance. Also, opening in the slow season is something you should realize when planning your opening date. Regardless, it's still a tough business. Last I checked, only 1 in 5 non-chain, non-franchise restaurants lasts more than a year. There's a spot near me that's on the 3rd one in a year and a half.

Dave: an update on the old Ventana space is due (it now has new signage calling it "Tiempo" and looks about ready to open).

The other restaurant is called "Downtown Deli" and occupies the slot formerly inhabited by that salad bar spot. Take a stroll and check it out.

Skybar is months away from an opening based on construction to date.

deleted by moderator

easily confused,

Thanks...I'll check it out.

shady shady

**** exactly...............

Hello all!
Has anyone noticed the similarities between Carlton's and a restaurant in San Fransisco, Comstock Saloon? Check the website and tell me what you think.
Thank you.

Carlton's: www.CarltonsCville.com
Comstock Saloon: www.comstocksaloon.com/

Hello, I have a lot of money that I have inherited and wish to throw it away as quickly as possible. Would you recommend a downtown theme restaurant or a vanity vineyard? Perhaps a highly specialized boutique or gallery that is open Wednesdays 2-4 and by appointment only? Say, Nepalese linens 'n' napkin rings, or 19th c. Provencal schnauzer prints? If anyone can assist me with the idea or wishes to co-invest (no business experience required!), I would be very interested indeed. Merci beaucoup, mes ami! :D

DonnieP, It's just the same web design format.

those sites are pre-designed templates, many web designers use them

Actually the source HTML on the contact page shows that it is more likely Carlton's was lifted from the other one. The difference in the contact pages is due to sections commented out. The alt tag "Comstock Saloon" appears twice in the HTML on Carlton's contact page. But... Comstock has no copyright notice on its own pages. Maybe Emily Shoop Design (see Comstock contact page) used a free template and Carlton's copied from there.

Thank you all for your answers. I was just surprised to see two restaurants with so much similarities (in the web sites but also in the concept and aspect of the restaurant itself) but not owned by the same person. I don't know a lot about that kind of business (probably because I am not attentive enough to that kind of thing), but I guess copying concepts is more common than I thought (maybe a proof of lack of imagination these days...). Thank you for enlightening me about all that!

nice work, colfer

Hello everyone,
I contacted Emily Shoop Design and here is their answer:

" Thanks for letting us know about this. No, I did NOT design this site. They very blatantly copied our site! Carlton's voicemail says they are closed permanently, so my guess is the site will not be up for long.
Thanks again for alerting us!"

Apparently it was not a free template....

Went for business lunch and they tossed my leftovers in the trash instead of the box I wanted...never went back...oh well

I happen to know that the site was created by a professional grapic designer for Carlton's. If they copied the site, it was without the knowledge of Carlton's. There is a lesson to be learned here though. Buyer beware, especially when you are purchasing graphic design materials.

The Majority of the reviews of the restaurant were good. In fact, I know a number of people who said the food was great. Someone got their leftovers tossed out? Give me a break! The place was training a new staff, and didn't have it all perfect quite yet. I was there, and can attest to the fact that my food was good, and the drinks and wine were terrific. It is too bad that they didn't succeed, but I, for one, am not going to judge, especially considering how bad the economy is. I used to eat out 2 or 3 times a week. Nowadays, I eat out maybe once a week (often less). Hooray to Carlton's for giving it a shot!

get free Carlton's closes at coupondocket.com

Nice try EC... Maybe you should give us the name of this so called 'professional grapic designer ' for future reference...

I happened to visit Carlton's website before changes were made. If you went under the section 'Private Events' there was a link to another section: 'Floor Plan'. Now this link has been removed of course but in this directory there were dozens of pdf articles about Comstock Saloon. It's not only the website that Carlton's copied but the entire restaurant concept.

For information, Comstock Saloon have an absinthe bar, play late-night live jazz music, in a low-lit ambiance...

Too bad for Carlton's, they copied the concept but did not have the world-renown bartenders and staff that Comstock have. Instead, 'the place was training a new staff'. Since Comstock have been up and running for more than a century, I guess Carlton's owner thought he could last that long by simply copying...

It's not the economy, it's the lack of originality...

Note, Comstock just added a copyright notice to their site!

Did the bar and barback from Carlton's days as that Louisiana restaurant survive? That owner put a lot of effort into cabinetry. And food.

As for Comstock being 100 years old, that is more or less right, but after being a brewpub for 20 years, the new owners have taken it back to 1907 "or earlier."
http://www.comstocksaloon.com/pdf/Semaphore.Comstock.Aug10.pdf

Some spaces are hard to work with. When I looked in the door at Carlton's, I saw a lot of white tablecloths between me and the bar. (Were there table cloths? Anyway, quiet diners.) For whatever its faults, Fellini's got that right. You can flow right into that place.

Meanwhile, we'll move the party upstairs, to the new Downtown Music and Dance studio. Piano lessons, all ages, levels and styles. Jazz improvisation for all instruments. And ballroom dance instruction (by others, I'm just a student.) And who knows, if there's enough interest, I'll keep playing for you up here. Got twice the piano (an upright and a grand, and also 3 keyboards, 440 keys total, any interest in group classes, those who can't afford lessons?) If interested, call 984-MOOK(6665) or write cvilletunes@gmail.com.

In my opinion, the design had nothing to do with it. The food in this place was a disaster. Our party of six spent a good chunk of change on a virtually inedible (mostly burned) meal. I'm not surprised to hear it went down the tubes so quickly, and frankly, I'm glad no one else will waste their money here. Guess this explains why my two letters to management went unanswered.

colfer, i had heard that 216 next door bought the bar from them.

If the person complaining about the place being copied, had been in the place, he would have seen that it was NOTHING like the comstock saloon. Just look at the photos of each place. No similarity! The lighting was A Totally original idea based on the type of lights that would have been used in a printing press room (remember the Michie Building was a printing and publishing company.)  I  can tell you that no one there had even heard of the Comstock Saloon until it was brought up in this blog. Gossipers just want to believe the worst. Its more fun to slam a place and rip it apart. Grow up. The floorplan was what it was. There's no way to control that. The bar was already in the place, and was moved and reassembled rather than buying a new one.  The bar isn't even that similar. The concept of Jazz music in a pleasant setting is nothing anyone has a copywrite on, so it is easy to find places around the country that have it.  The mistake was in hiring a web designer that copied the web design. Don't blame Carlton's for the bad actions of someone they hired in good faith. The Absinth service is something the owner knew about from visiting New Orleans. I suppose you could say they copied Cafe du Monde, since they served begniets.
As for the woman who claims she had a terrible meal there, well she is not from Charlottesville, went there one time, and never told the server there was anything wrong with the food, so it could not be corrected. I heard about the letter bitching about everything right down to the decor, and wanting a refund. I don't think she got it, so she is obviously pissed about that. Oh yeah, she made a point of announcing to the servers and nearby tables that she and all her friends at the table were PhDs! How stuck up is that!If the person complaining about the place being copied, had been in the place, he would have seen that it was NOTHING like the comstock saloon. Just look at the photos of each place. No similarity! The lighting was A Totally original idea based on the type of lights that would have been used in a printing press room (remember the Michie Building was a printing and publishing company.)  I  can tell you that no one there had even heard of the Comstock Saloon until it was brought up in this blog. Gossipers just want to believe the worst. Its more fun to slam a place and rip it apart. Grow up. The floorplan was what it was. There's no way to control that. The bar was already in the place, and was moved and reassembled rather than buying a new one.  The bar isn't even that similar. The concept of Jazz music in a pleasant setting is nothing anyone has a copywrite on, so it is easy to find places around the country that have it.  The mistake was in hiring a web designer that copied the web design. Don't blame Carlton's for the bad actions of someone they hired in good faith. The Absinth service is something the owner knew about from visiting New Orleans. I suppose you could say they copied Cafe du Monde, since they served begniets.
As for the woman who claims she had a terrible meal there, well she is not from Charlottesville, went there one time, and never told the server there was anything wrong with the food, so it could not be corrected. I heard about the letter bitching about everything right down to the decor, and wanting a refund. I don't think she got it, so she is obviously pissed about that. Oh yeah, she made a point of announcing to the servers and nearby tables that she and all her friends at the table were PhDs! How stuck up is that!