Hard Rock Cafe closing

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The Hard Rock Cafe will be vacating the ByWard Market stage at the end of the summer.

The bar inside the Hard Rock Cafe in the ByWard Market.

By David Sali

The iconic theme restaurant will shut its doors for good on Sept. 1 after 17 years at its York Street location, office manager Heidi Frankish said Thursday.

Ms. Frankish said the owner of the Ottawa franchise, Keith Taggart, decided that after more than three decades in the restaurant business, it was time to retire.

“He turned 60 this year,” she said.

“There just comes a point where you have to re-invest heavily (in the business) and he didn’t want to do it. He just said, ‘I’m retiring from the restaurant business.’”

Another restaurant will be moving into the soon-to-be-vacated space but the new buyer’s identity remains confidential.

ByWard Market BIA executive director Jasna Jennings said it will be sad to see the restaurant, known for its rock ’n’ roll memorabilia, disappear from the downtown scene.

“Hard Rocks are always a bit of a tourist draw,” Ms. Jennings said, adding she doesn’t know what type of eatery will be taking its place. “We’re going to miss them … but it’s understandable, though, that after all these years, (Mr. Taggart) would be ready for a break.”

A well-known figure in the Ottawa restaurant scene, Mr. Taggart was one of the founders of the Hurley’s chain, which once had 10 locations across Canada, and was also connected to Hooters, among other establishments.

The closure of the Ottawa location will leave Canada with just two Hard Rock restaurants, down from a peak of 11 in the mid-’90s.

“There are different reasons for all of those closures, and none have anything to do with why we’re closing,” Ms. Frankish said. “For us, it was just simply a retirement.”

She also praised Mr. Taggart’s ownership, noting the restaurant’s 50 or so employees and six managers were told of the pending closure last September. While the intent was to give them plenty of time to search for other work, no employees left.

“We (haven’t) lost a single staff member,” Ms. Frankish said, adding current employees will have an opportunity to interview with the new owners.

Geographic location: Ottawa, York Street, Canada Hard Rocks

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