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Closing Time for C. Tsar's

Another Newton restaurant falls victim to the shaky economy and the changing face of diners.

After just under a year in business, C. Tsar’s in Newtonville has closed its doors for good.

The Mediterranean bistro , Ariadne, to reflect the changing tastes of diners hungry for more regular, accessible fare.

Unfortunately, this shift was not enough to combat the unstable economy and the move away from dining out as a form of entertainment.

“When we changed the concept to the more neighborhood friendly C. Tsar's, we made every effort to be as inexpensive as we possibly could in a space that expensive to operate, but the neighborhood did not respond the way we hoped they would,” stated Malloy in an email sent September 27.

Ariadne opened in 2002 and was a very successful restaurant in a spot that had previously seen four failed ventures in the space of ten years, according to Malloy.  In September of 2010, recognizing the loss of expensed business dinners and wanting to court a neighborhood clientele, Tsardounis and Malloy changed their concept and rebranded as C. Tsar’s.

But high rent and the staggering utility bills for a restaurant of that size were simply too much for them. In late August, C. Tsar’s shuttered its doors and sold off its equipment and furnishings to the public. Customers who walked by and those who had Groupons for the restaurant were left wondering what had happened.

According to Malloy’s email, the Groupon deal was also a factor in their having to close up shop.

“We did Groupon in December 2009 and at first we thought it was great. We were super busy and people loved it,” she states. “We decided to give Groupon another try over the summer. We figured this time people would have to spend something on top of the Groupon, but much to my amazement (and dismay) 70 percent of the Groupon checks were for less than $40.”

Groupon has already alerted customers who have not yet utilized their Groupons that their money will be refunded.

Malloy and Tsardounis are “heartbroken,” but she has maintained as positive an attitude as can be expected under such difficult circumstances.

“Maybe it will be like the line in the Barbra Streisand song ‘What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget,’” she writes.  “Maybe someday I’ll remember all the good times and all the heart break and disappointment will fade away. When it all seems too much I just think about my kids and how wonderful they are. I know as long as they are healthy and safe that’s all that really matters.”

abc def October 04, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Why are we blaming Groupon?? Is the blame because YOU the restaurant put too much hope in some outside remedy to make your business work?? I don't know if it's the owners that put "some" blame on Groupon or just the writers of this article...but either way....shame on you!
Damon October 04, 2011 at 10:47 PM
My girlfriend and I have a joke about Groupon in Seattle...everytime we see a Groupon for a local restuarant, we say "Just a matter of time before that one closes." Seems like its the last gasp of businesses to do a Groupon. There have also been a lot of stories that I have read about how it really doesn't help a business in the long run at all and can actually speed its impending doom.
Wendy Schapiro October 05, 2011 at 01:41 AM
The owners of the restaurant chose to participate in a Groupon deal and it is/was their opinion that it did not provide for them in the way they had hoped. There is no need to be accusatory- everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. FYI, though, I am working on a related story about how Groupons and other discount sites affect the local restaurant business. If you're interested in reading more about the subject before I write about the local angle, here's a link to a recent NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/business/deal-sites-have-fading-allure-for-merchants.html?src=recg . I think you may find it enlightening.
Wendy Schapiro October 05, 2011 at 01:42 AM
That has been my finding to date, as well.
Jeffrey Shain October 05, 2011 at 09:29 AM
Dear Wendy, Did you get an opportunity to dine at this restaurant? I'm wondering how the food was. There was nothing in your article about what people thought of the food.
Wendy Schapiro October 05, 2011 at 10:53 AM
Hi Jeffrey, Thanks for commenting! Since this was a factual article about C. Tsar's closing and not a review or an opinion piece, I think including what I thought of the food (or even whether or not I actually ate there) would be unprofessional. Suffice it to say that as a person and a Newtonite I am always saddened when good people fall on hard times. :)
Andrea James October 05, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Businesses should definitely do their calculations carefully before embarking on a daily deal (by doing the calculations they may find that daily deals are unsuitable for their business). Secondly, they should have a well defined plan what complementary products/services to upsell, train their staff about this and be aware of the risks and downsides of failing to upsell/cross-sell and cap the number of vouchers accordingly. Well, there are many more factors that a business should consider (put into action if appropriate) when running a daily deal. Groupons or Daily Deals are simply not suitable for some businesses but one of the problems is when your competitors run deals (that may be hurting their profits in the longer run) and customers now wonder why they should pay more at your business. But it doesn't mean you should join in! But unfortunately you now do need to reinforce the reasons why your prices are higher. Customer expectations inevitably go up when the price difference gets bigger between you and your competitors. Your customers want some justification for spending more...at least help these customers explain their case to their (more penny pinching) partners :) If you would like more information about how to differentiate your business in this even more competitive market (or if you want to know how to structure a more workable coupon), feel free to contact us. andrea(at)couponguru.info
Wendy Schapiro October 05, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Thanks so much for your informative insight, Andrea!
Barry Black October 05, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Groupon et al arise in a weak economy----it's akin to department stores offering a "loss-leader" hoping to attract customers who will buy other items as well. Unless you have funds to tide you over in a weak economy you're toast and restaurants are notorious for having little tolerance for diminished cash flow.
Wendy Schapiro October 06, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Sad but true, Barry, sad but true.
Alex Dobson October 07, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Thanks for the article! Its terrible what Groupon did to this restaurant. I signed up for BlendAbout ( http://www.blendabout.com ) and they take you to local restaurants with a group of people who also love food. With the current economy, restaurants don't need businesses like Groupon hurting them. They need our support more than anyone.
Wendy Schapiro October 07, 2011 at 08:43 PM
I think the Groupon/discount coupon thing CAN work in a restaurant's favor, but it has to be handled wisely (not to suggest that the folks at C. Tsar's didn't do so, of course). Blue Ribbon BBQ, arguably one of the most successful restaurants in Newton, has just done another one (this time NOT with Groupon itself) so clearly it *does* work for some. I'll be very interested in hearing from other merchants who have utilized them how it has affected their business. Can you drop me an email and tell me more about BlendAbout? If it's local to Newton, I might want to do a column on you all- what a fun idea! :)
Taylor October 10, 2011 at 11:52 PM
Hi Wendy! Thanks for your article. I know Christos and he's a super nice guy and I'm sorry that the restaurant closed but I believe that when the Universe closes a door, it opens another EVEN BETTER one. ;) So although it's tough now, he and his wife will one day know why this happened and be wiser and happier because of it. I'm sending light to them for future joy with their family. You're a great writer!
Wendy Schapiro October 11, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Thanks T! :D I am sure your well-wishes and positive vibes are helping Christos and Kathleen, even if they aren't directly aware of it. And you are right- though they may not know it now, I bet something good will come of this in the long run and they will find a new and better path.
Anonymous October 12, 2011 at 03:19 AM
It is my understanding that the employees of this restaurant have yet to be paid. They are having a hard time getting any response when they ask Kathleen when or if they will be paid for their last two weeks of work. Although it is a shame, and certainly a loss for the neighborhood that the restaurant closed, it shows terribly poor character to not only fail to pay your employees their wages, but also steel all of the servers credit card tips (which is what happened in this case). I really hope that after "selling off the equipment and furnishings to the public" that they use that money to give their staff what they are owed.
Wendy Schapiro October 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM
First of all, it's "steal" not "steel" (English teacher first and always :-). Secondly, while I appreciate that you may feel you have information to share, if you can't sign your name or claim your comment it's a bit difficult to give it any credibility. Without knowing how you came to have this information or any evidence to support its veracity, the comment just sounds like pot-stirring. Finally, and just to be precise, while the owners of C. Tsar's did attempt to sell off the contents of the restaurant, we have no information as to how successful this sale was nor if they were able to make any profit whatsoever.
James Redmond October 17, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Sorry to see C. Tsar's go. That said, blaming Groupon (or any other external influence) for their business failure seems unfair. The restaurant started its descent from success as Ariadne, long before their Groupon venture, and continued on the same path after its name-and-menu change. So perhaps the issues afflicting Ariadne were NOT the menu or the prices after all! During the same time period, Lumiere and 51 Lincoln, both upscale Newton eateries, have survived and thrived despite the economy. Clearly, problems beyond just the economy contributed to this restaurant's demise. It's unfair to lay the blame with Groupon - in fact, Groupon may have kept C. Tsar's open longer than it could have made it without them.
Wendy Schapiro October 17, 2011 at 06:32 PM
No one is *blaming* Groupon, James. What Ms. Malloy said was that after a very successful initial Groupon endeavor, their second attempt did not yield the desired results since their take was very insignificant. This is a *fact* ("70 percent of the Groupon checks were for less than $40"), not an opinion. As to whether the Groupon deal kept the open longer, that is possible but with no evidence to support either view it would be difficult to say so in hindsight. Having written about both Lumiere and 51 Lincoln as well, and having spoken to the owners/chefs at all three restaurants, I can tell you from my own experience and viewpoint that they have a very different clientele from C. Tsar's target audience. Those restaurants are supported, at least in part, by those still able to seek out "destination dining," and the national reputations of their chefs compared to the relative anonymity of Christos Tsardounis (even outside of Newton itself) has played a positive factor in their success versus C. Tsar's lack thereof. Still working on that story about Groupon and other discount coupon sites, but my evidence to date supports Malloy's contention that buying in to Groupon, etc. are not always in the best interest of a restaurant. I'll keep you posted :)
James Redmond October 18, 2011 at 02:13 PM
From your article: "According to Malloy’s email, the Groupon deal was also a factor in their having to close up shop." Sounded like blame to me.
Wendy Schapiro October 19, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Guess we'll have to agree to disagree. :)
Melanie Graham (Editor) June 21, 2012 at 07:11 PM
JDILLA -- I hate deleting comments, but due to the fact that you used inappropriate language (swearing), we had to get rid of it from the site (http://newton.patch.com/terms) We encourage you to resubmit your comment, if you can, with cleaner language. Thank you!

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