Second Charleston restaurant points to labor problems as reason for closure in same week

Kitchen 208 announced on Friday it was closing its doors effective that day. (Source: Google...
Kitchen 208 announced on Friday it was closing its doors effective that day. (Source: Google Earth)
Updated: Mar. 31, 2019 at 11:45 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A downtown Charleston restaurant’s announcement on Friday that it was shutting down effective immediately cited the same issue a West Ashley eatery says led to its decision to close.

Kitchen 208 was located at 208 King Street and was known for breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch items served either in an indoor dining room or pet-friendly outdoor patio. It opened in June 2013 and was part of the Charming Inns family, which also owns restaurant Circa 1886.

“This was a very difficult decision for us as we care a lot about our employees as well as our customers,” Charming Inns spokesperson Linn Lesesne said.

She said that while business revenues were strong, finding qualified workers to work the line had become extremely difficult.

“It almost comes down to simple math; a lot of great restaurants in Charleston but not enough staff to work in these restaurants,” Lesesne said. “The Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has taken this situation across the city very seriously as it relates to workforce development. They are holding local job fairs in addition to recruiting restaurant and hospitality workers from areas outside of Charleston. This isn’t only about qualified people it is also about the lack of public transportation and affordable housing which are both critical issues in our area.”

Kitchen 208 posted to its Facebook page Friday it was closing effective that same day.

“After much thoughtful consideration, we regretfully announce the closing of Kitchen 208 restaurant effective 3/29/19,” the post stated in part. “Our decision is based upon the very difficult labor force environment in the Charleston area, specifically qualified restaurant staff. We would like to thank all of our current and past employees for their hard work as well as our loyal customers for their patronage.”

Lesesne said two staff members already work full-time for Circa 1886 and the one full-time cashier who worked at Kitchen 208 was offered a position at one of the company’s inns.

Food Network’s “Ginormous Food” program visited the restaurant in 2017 to spotlight its Belle-Gem Triple Play, a “three-story chicken-and-waffle creation.”

On Tuesday, West Ashley restaurant Parson Jack’s Cafe announced it would close Sunday night after more than 12 years in business. Owner Steve Morgan said the decision to close was purely financial with rising rent and rising labor costs he said pushes wages to reach “unsustainable levels.”

The result is that small “Mom and Pop” restaurants like Parson Jack’s Cafe get pushed out of business, he said.

Parson Jack’s will shut down after a “thank you party” planned from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. Sunday. During the party, the restaurant plans to donate more than $6,000 to the Charleston Animal Society and PetHelpers. The money had decorated the restaurant’s ceiling for most of its existence.

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