An Empire has fallen near VCU.
Empire Dining and Lounge, which had operated at 727 W. Broad St. for nearly a decade, shut down on Oct. 7, owner Thor LeVesque said.
LeVesque said he bought the two-story restaurant and music venue last year from Jason Edwards and Chris Brand. The business had been open for nine years. LeVesque said he couldn’t attract enough VCU students away from nearby chains.
“The competition is overwhelmingly corporate,” LeVesque said. “If you don’t appeal to the young students that walk through that area, you won’t stay open.”
Empire is across the street from a Chipotle and a Panera Bread, and just a block away from Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Jersey Mike’s Subs locations.
It also has locally based competition around it. Nile Ethiopian used to be next door to Empire at 309 N. Laurel St. but recently moved to Carytown. A new burger startup is moving into the Nile space.
Empire’s second-story music hall hasn’t been used in about 16 years, but LeVesque said in its heyday it booked acts including Alice Cooper and Bruce Springsteen.
“The rock and roll culture that has been born and bred in that building – a lot of those people have grown old and moved away or don’t go out as much anymore,” LeVesque said. “It was the first place I saw live bands play in Richmond. It was a place I frequented in the late ‘80s.”
LeVesque, 47, said he originally closed with the intention of reopening, but a financial partner walked away and the project fell through.
“It’s just me cleaning up,” LeVesque said. “I’m still entertaining offers to have someone buy the place.”