Blue Star, the Rockville kosher restaurant whose motto was “We’re bringing brisket back” has closed, after being open less than a year-and-a-half.
“All things considered, it’s just that kind of business,” said Marc Zweben, who owned the barbeque meat restaurant with partner Sina Soumekhian. The men also own Char Bar in Dupont Circle.
“We generally had a very loyal customer base,” Zweben said. But the cost of operating a kosher restaurant — purchasing only kosher products, retaining a kosher supervisor known as a mashgiach and being closed during Shabbat and Jewish holidays — made it difficult, he said.
Rather than close on an agreed-upon date, the owners did not reopen the restaurant following its limited operating hours between the High Holidays and Simchat Torah.
On its Facebook page was posted the simple message, “We regret to inform the community that Blue Star has closed. Our thanks to all who have supported us with your patronage.”
About 10 comments expressing regret followed that posting, including one that read, “So sorry to hear that we are down another kosher restaurant yet again.”
The owners were unsuccessful in their attempt to find someone to take over the establishment.
Instead, the space is expected to reopen as a nonkosher eatery.
“I’m so sad there will now be one less kosher meat restaurant in the area,” said Steve Rabinowitz, president of Bluelight Strategies and a self-professed big kosher meat eater.
“I thought the food was great at Blue Star, even if the service [was] spotty,” he said.
Zweben said he has heard from several “disappointed” people who lamented that there will be one less kosher eatery in the region.
When the restaurant opened in February 2014, it was advertised as a restaurant that would make brisket more prominent and bring authentic flavors of Texas barbecue into the area.
The owners had a short-term lease. “We wanted to see if the model could work,” said Zweben.
“We are not going to reopen something else in the suburbs,” he added. “The business model is essentially broken.”
A place like Moti’s Grill can be successful, because it has a supermarket attached, he said. Smaller establishments with less overhead also may work, he added.
“It’s a tough business. Restaurant business is a hard business anyway.”
However, Zweben said, there is good news at Char Bar. It recently expanded to add a second private dining room with its own bar.
Also, the menu is growing to include more vegan items, and the restaurant will soon offer a Sunday brunch.
Meanwhile, Café Centro, a kosher dairy restaurant inside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, closed this summer due to renovations at the Rockville facility.
The space where the café was located was added to the JCC’s kosher kitchen, said Treva Bustow, chief marketing officer.
There are plans to include another small eatery, but probably not until the renovations are complete in about a year, she said.