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Foodie Corner

Fort Lauderdale Restaurants Market 17 And Hot & Soul Close Their Doors

Two of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular restaurants—Market 17 and Hot & Soul—are no longer.

Market 17 closed last month, squeezed out by the soon-to-come demolition of its building and high rents elsewhere. Hot & Soul will close this week (its last day open will be March 15), having outgrown its current location and unable to find a spot elsewhere.

Both are among the top-rated restaurants in town and often land on "best of" lists. Market 17 developed a following for its extensive wine list, high-caliber service and the renowned skill of Lauren DeShields, who herself often made the short list of best chefs in town. At Hot & Soul, a chef-driven menu with everything from Cajun to Asian-inspired dishes were often some of the most creative, tasty and quirky items in town.

Brother and sister partners Aaron and Kirsta Grauberger have owned Market 17 for eight years. They learned last summer that their lease likely wouldn’t be continued, as the county is planning to demolish the building and construct a new convention center. 

“When we learned about it, we held our breath and hoped we could make something happen,” Aaron Grauberger says. 

They explored an extension in the current space and at first thought they could negotiate something for a few more months to make it through season. When that didn’t work, Grauberger says he and his sister began negotiating moving across the street to the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina. When that fell through, Grauberger says they decided in late January that they’d need to close by March 1.

“Turns out, closing a restaurant is almost as hard as opening one,” Grauberger says. In December, the restaurant had nearly 7,000 bottles of wine on hand. By halting orders, they managed to whittle that down to about 700. 

DeShields is considering getting an RV and driving across the country for a while, Grauberger says. She has been working part-time at the restaurant for about a year, with sous chef Nicole Romeo filling in. Romeo, whose menus often included a more Asian and Indian influence, is thinking about a move out of state.

The Graubergers have looked into other locations around town, but rents are currently two or three times the deal they inked in 2010. Signing a more expensive lease would mean either raising prices or failing when summer comes, Grauberger says. 

In the short term, Grauberger says he’s enjoying some downtime. “This is the first time in eight years that I don’t have things to worry about,” he says. The emotional toll of losing a restaurant he and his sister built hasn’t hit him too hard, mostly because he had so much time to prepare. “Our fate was decided a while ago, so right now I’m looking forward to a new adventure.”

At Hot & Soul, chef-owners Christy Samoy and Mike Hampton are taking the impending closure much harder. “Of course this is emotional,” Samoy says. “It’s like our baby.”

Samoy says the restaurant’s lease was up at the end of last year. They decided not to renew, in part because parking at the plaza had become untenable. That’s especially true when the Culture Room next door had a big show, and the parking lot would be swamped. 

Samoy and Hampton looked around town for a new location but hit the same roadblocks as Market 17—rents at restaurants have become so high that it’s difficult to imagine making it. They sold the restaurant to someone who's going to take over the space. The new owner didn't purchase the name, however, so Samoy says they haven't ruled out reopening elsewhere.

“We are going to take a little break,” Samoy says. “After the dust settles, we will see what happens.”

Dealing with the emotions of closing a restaurant they’ve operated for five years has been a challenge, but Samoy says they’re also looking forward. “In one way it’s like letting go of our baby, but we have a future that’s wide open.”

Photo via Facebook/Market 17

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