It’s been a 13-year run for Ben Boles and his Ben’s ChopHouse restaurant, the last year or so at 6780 Veterans Parkway near the heavily trafficked Columbus Park Crossing shopping and dining hub.
But the once-popular steak and seafood eatery, which opened in a former Ruby Tuesday restaurant space 13 months ago — moving there from its former Sidney Simons Boulevard location — will have served its last meal to customers by close of business Monday night.
“Tonight’s the last night,” Boles said Monday afternoon, explaining he had gotten married in October and decided that he no longer can stomach the long and relentless hours of a restaurateur, particularly one trying to start a new family.
“It’s a seven-day, 80-hour-a-week job,” Boles said. “I had been trying to come up with an exit plan and just couldn’t find anything. Selling (the restaurant) is not really a great option in this economy, unfortunately, and we were able to come to an agreement with the landlord to shut it down.”
Boles, who plans to leave Columbus and relocate to a beach community with his new wife, Jess, acknowledged he’s had mixed success at the current restaurant location. He called it challenging and lamented that there are far too many restaurants in Columbus now. That overall competition also makes staffing a fine-dining eatery that much more difficult, he said.
“Fine dining is just hard. It’s harder to get employees, and to deliver that level of service is just difficult,” he said, though describing his current staff as one of the best crews he’s had in a long time. They all have already landed new jobs, he said.
Online reviews back up Boles’ assessment that it has been a rockier road on Veterans Parkway than he had hoped. The restaurant’s own Facebook page shows there are as many 1- and 2-star ratings by customers as there are 5 stars, with plenty of critics of its service, food and prices.
“I’ve made some mistakes and there’s certainly enough blame to be put on my shoulders,” he said. “But it’s just something that, unfortunately, with the higher level of restaurants, you need a higher level of staff, and it’s just very hard to do.”
Overall, Boles said, the Veterans Parkway location is “fantastic” with the vehicle traffic and the number of people flocking to the Columbus Park area to spend money and have a good time. Aside from retailers, there are a variety of other restaurants nearby, including Cheddar’s, Bonefish Grill, Red Lobster, Friday’s, Chili’s, LongHorn Steakhouse, Smokey Bones, Olive Garden, Carrabba’s and others large and small.
Boles also doesn’t know what might go in the spot after he closes and sells the equipment inside. But he believes the landlord, Adams Properties of Columbus Inc., is now in discussions with other prospective tenants. The intersection in front of the restaurant sees about 34,000 vehicles a day, according to a Georgia Department of Transportation traffic count.
As for RiverBen’s Grill, a restaurant operated by Boles near the lake in nearby Salem, Ala., an area known as the backwaters, that will remain open. He said that eatery’s casual menu and atmosphere is simply easier to run successfully.
But there was just no way to make Ben’s ChopHouse work any longer, Boles conceded, with the stress it was causing, his leaving Columbus, and the priority he now has of putting his personal family first.
“It’s sad because (Ben’s ChopHouse) has been my family, basically, for 13 years, all of the employees past and present,” he said. “It’s sad to see something that you’ve got your name to and you go there all the time. It is like family in a way, and it’s sad to see that finish up.”