Despite growth, Unity Plaza loses another restaurant

HOBNOB closes, blaming lack of foot traffic

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Unity Plaza in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Jacksonville has lost its second restaurant in six months. The owner of HOBNOB, one of the area's original tenants, said there just weren't enough customers for it to stay in business, although it will continue catering and keep the space as venue for events.

Sbraga & Company abruptly closed last year.

The area was envisioned as a social hub for the community, but low foot traffic was blamed on the two restaurants closings.

"We've really tried all kinds of avenues: adjusted hours, adjusted menu and adjusted days opening," HOBNOB co-owner Ellen Cottrill said. "We just found that in this location, Unity Plaza, didn't really come up to the standard that it opened with."

This comes as the Brooklyn area, along Riverside Avenue, continues to grow. More apartments and new restaurants are planned. But HOBNOB and Sbraga were one block away from where the growth is happening.

The Sbraga space has been empty for about six months. HOBNOB owners said the high rent is deterring other businesses from moving in.

But with successful businesses down the street, why can't restaurants survive at Unity Plaza?

People in the Brooklyn area gave News4Jax three answers:

  • Some didn't even know the two restaurants existed because here wasn't enough signage.
  • Others said there was limited parking for the restaurants. People can valet or park in a gravel area, which most people said was not appealing.
  • People who did come to Unity Plaza to eat complained that there wasn't much nightlife or anything else to do.

Kat Attaway was looking for more.

"Something more accessible, more affordable, something that stays open late that gives us a bar scene and a place to mix and mingle," Attaway said.

A new distillery under construction across the street from Unity Plaza gives business owners in the area some hope.

"As time progresses, it'll be a great place to be," Cottrill said. "Right now,  maybe it's a little early for that."

Cottrill said she will consider reopening HOBNOB if things pick up in the future. 

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