The one-time game-changing, now stricken Polpo restaurant group has announced that it will close its New York-Venetian dive bar Spuntino in July. As reported by Big Hospitality, co-owner Richard Beatty has said the landlord has decided to take back the lease. Beatty emphasised that the group is actively seeking to relocate — to a “bigger, better” premises elsewhere in Soho. He said losing the site was going to be “tough.”
The 27-seater site on Rupert Street — which opened with big hype in 2011 — carried with it the momentum Polpo had generated two years earlier, a clever assimilation of a Venetian bacaro and a New York dive bar, which served ciccheti, “iconic” jazzed-up junk food, fresh popcorn, and approachable cocktails. Perhaps more than any of his other restaurants, Spuntino was the perfect manifestation of creative director and co-owner Russell Norman’s two greatest loves and sources of inspiration: Venice and New York City. Alongside Hawksmoor, and later Meatliquor, Spuntino was also one of the first London sanctuaries in hospitality for staff covered in tattoos.
News of Spuntino’s closure follows the last week’s rescue mission announcement — to sell two other sites in the group’s portfolio: Polpetto on Berwick Street, also in Soho, and Polpo in Notting Hill. The Spuntino brand has recently engaged in an expansion plan across transport hubs, with a first concession opening in Heathrow airport’s terminal 3 at the end of last year. The group’s eagerness to find a new site — Beatty said that they would offer a £10,000 finder’s fee — is perhaps born of a need to minimise brand damage while that initiative remains in its infancy.
It is also worth stressing that the issues the group faces elsewhere in the portfolio could be coincidental; Spuntino’s name was conspicuous by its absence from any talk of restructure last week. What’s more, the annual rent cited by the property agent is £200,000, which is a tall order for a 27-cover bar.
Not for the first time, London’s restaurant epicentre — made up as it now is of myriad landlords, property developers, and financiers — will lose another piece of hospitality history. Closures in Soho in the past 18 months have included, most notably, Fernandez and Wells sites on Beak and Lexington Streets, and the Gay Hussar — a favourite among politicians. Elsewhere, Cinnamon Soho, Hummus Bros., Bibigo, and Flavour Bastard have all closed in the neighbourhood as well.