Hops & Harvest bit the dust a few days ago less than six months after it opened to great fanfare in Tivoli Village.
Its ignominious demise was hardly a surprise, as we had received a stream of reports over the past few months about how empty it was even on weekends.
H & H marked the first time in Las Vegas’s history that a nationally acclaimed chef had ventured off the Strip and into the neighborhoods. The fact that Bradley Ogden’s star had dimmed a bit over the past twenty years in no way diminished this milestone, and lot’s of us kept our fingers crossed that his bold move to the ‘burbs would herald a new dawn in quality, off Strip dining.
Alas, it was not to be.
There was nothing wrong with the food — maybe a few of the dishes didn’t hit their mark, but on the whole, it was exactly the type of upgraded, casual American fare that Americans seem to crave these days (and which the Ogdens – both Bradley and son Bryan – do better than just about anyone. Prices were fair and the booze and service left one with little to complain about.
When we spoke to Ogden yesterday, he gave a us very general and diplomatic statement about the reasons for the shuttering.
“We decided to pull out of the project because of issues we had with the way the restaurant was being run,” is how he put it. “And once we finalized our decision (a short time ago). they decided to close it.”
Left unsaid was the reason H & H went off the rails in the first place, and that reason is twofold: One, it had the most awkward design, and worst feng shui of any eatery we’ve ever been in; and two, it was no more a “Bradley Ogden” restaurant than the Venetian/Palazzo is a “Mario Batali” hotel.
We’ll say no more about the hideous, awkward, uncomfortable and nonsensical design of the place, beyond it was that way for everybody, patron and staff alike. Whoever thought up this patchwork quilt of a dining space ought to be shot (figuratively), and the next sucker the landlord dupes into signing a lease should have their head examined.
As bad as the physical space was, what really doomed H & H from the get-go was deal that brought the Ogden’s to the project in the first place. Simply put, it was a management contract similar to the ones signed by (some) celebrity chefs with (some of) the big hotels….albeit with less zeros involved. Without actually having seen the document, we can guess that Bradley received an up-front fee, plus a percentage of either gross revenues, net profits or both, in exchange for which he was to create and oversee the implementation of the menu.
This formula works fine when you’re spoon feeding “brand name” chefs to hordes of slack-jawed, credulous tourists. But riding something as esoteric as a chef’s national reputation to fun and profit from the locals is a much harder task — especially when it’s pretty obvious to the community that the name on the door has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the establishment.
The people who did have day-to-day oversight of things also own several other competing eateries in Tivoli Village. (Lord only knows how the parcel out their time and their loyalties to businesses who seem to be cannibalizing each other. Ethical quandaries aside, these folks can be forgiven for looking at these stores as nothing more than profit and loss ledgers. They’re businessmen after all. They’re supposed to have a calculator for a heart. Soul and passion and pride of craft are things that people like chefs have….and that the Ogdens have in spades.
Unfortunately, H & H had none of the above — profits, pride or passion. It exhibited all the soul of a muffler shop and the warmth of a bus terminal.
That’s what you get when it’s all about the balance sheet.