A Richmond restaurant group this month sold one of its eateries, allowing the buyers in the deal to further corner off their piece of the market in Shockoe Bottom.
David Bess and Matt Busch, who between them own Cha Cha’s Cantina and Society, acquired Europa just up the street at 1409 E. Cary St. from the Richmond Restaurant Group. The deal closed May 16.
Bess and Busch plan to transform the 3,500-square-foot spot into Torero Tapas Bar & Grill. They’ll reopen the rebranded space in June.
“After eight years down here, it’s just time to expand,” Bess said.
Bess wouldn’t say how much he and Busch paid for Europa.
It’s the second time in eight years Bess has done a deal with Richmond Restaurant Group owners Jared Golden, Michelle Williams and Ted Wallof.
In 2006, he bought Cha Cha’s at 1419 E. Cary St. from the group. That gave him two locations on that stretch of the Bottom along with what was then known as Lucky Buddha, which is co-owned by Busch. The pair rebranded that space at 1421 E. Cary St. as Society last year.
Bess said he’d been looking to open a third restaurant when Golden offered in April to sell Europa. The Richmond Restaurant Group still owns six restaurants in town: The Daily Kitchen & Bar at 2934 W. Cary St., Pearl Raw Bar at 2229 W. Main St., Water Coastal Kitchen at 3411 W. Cary St., The Hill Café at 2800 E. Broad St. and two locations of The Hard Shell at 11400 W. Huguenot Rd. and 1411 E. Cary St.,
Bess, 38, said he’s keeping Europa’s menu and that planned changes have more to do with cosmetics and clientele. On Friday and Saturday nights, the property’s basement will be reserved for patrons ages 25 and up, he said.
Despite having three restaurants next door to each other, Bess said he isn’t worried about having one business cannibalize another.
“We see it as an opportunity to cater to different demographics,” Bess said.
Bess said the rise in downtown apartments has helped attract more people to the area but that a larger retail presence would help keep things steady.
“Last year was dreadful, and we’re (now) seeing an increase in patronage,” he said. “You could have 15 to 20 restaurants here, but that doesn’t drive people out all the time.”
As for the future of Bess and Busch’s growing group of restaurants, Bess said in five years he’d like to own two more locations.
“I’d like to mirror their success in Richmond,” he said of the Richmond Restaurant Group.