Avance, the ambitious restaurant that followed Le Bec-Fin at 1523 Walnut St., will end its 10-month run after dinner service Saturday, Oct. 11.
The impending closing was not unexpected. Troubled by tepid reviews, crippled by weak summer sales and slapped with an eviction notice after the sale of the building, Avance will "bow out gracefully," chef-partner Justin Bogle told me Tuesday night. He said investors made the decision today to pull the plug after Saturday. "We will have a great service Saturday," Bogle said.
The reason is pure economics. The house required 120 patrons a night to be sustainable, Bogle said.
"We can't continue operating at this pace," said Bogle, a Philadelphia native who at age 28 in 2009 became the youngest chef to earn two Michelin stars, for his work at New York's Gilt, which closed in 2012.
"We just don't have time to wait and see when it could turn a corner. I can't say this was the wrong decision."
As an independent restaurant, Avance is largely an anomaly on the Rittenhouse Square stretch of Walnut Street. Once Philadelphia's restaurant row, with such one-offs over the last two decades as Susanna Foo, Il Portico, Circa, Alfa, and Striped Bass, the street is now largely a collection of national retail and restaurant chains that can afford high rent.
Le Bec-Fin closed under Georges Perrier in 2012. It was extensively renovated and briefly was revived under new management, but it too suffered from low turnout. The decision to reconfigure the storied address yet again as Avance, which opened in December 2013, was met with cautious optimism in this era of less-expensive dining. The lamb burger served at the bar got much attention and even won a prize at the 2014 Burger Brawl.
To Bogle's credit, he never backed down from his edgy, gorgeously plated American fare, whose ambition alas did not square with the economics.
"We gave it a shot," Bogle said, sounding not a trace bitter. "We have an awesome team. We'll all land on our feet."
The future of 1523 Walnut St. is not known. Perrier, who had owned the bricks for four decades, lost it in a sheriff's sale last spring. New owner Pearl Properties does have restaurants in its portfolio, but it's just as likely that it a retailer would be willing to pay more rent.
Rent is $28,000, according to a court filing.
As for Bogle's own future: "Zero clue. I have a lot of thinking to do."