Last Call at Jo’s in NYC: Too Brief a Treat

The stylish-yet-seemingly-secret dining rooms at Jo’s in Nolita.

Every time a restaurant closes, a piece of my heart breaks — for a hundred different reasons. Primarily, though, it means a dream has, at least momentarily, been dashed.

So is the case with Jo’s in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Established four years ago by Jim Chu and Johnny Santiago, Jo’s sought to fill a unique gap — that of neighborhood watering hole and everyday restaurant with a warm, welcoming vibe. They courted their regulars, held fun contests (Pancakes!), created an anti-social media postcard campaign, and tweaked their menu very carefully, seeking out kitchen talent who understood their vision and respected the price point they had set for their unusually accessible menu. Chu and Santiago, both longtime veterans of New York City’s bar and restaurant scene (despite their youthful looks), gave cheeky seminars on how to semi-succeed in business, always maintaining their optimism and good humor. On any given night, either one or both could be found on premise, greeting diners, pitching in when duty called, and making sure guests were having a good time.

Despite these careful and creative efforts, Jo’s will shut its doors at the end of service tonight after not even half a decade in business. What led to its untimely demise? Well, this piece by Josh Ozersky regarding the state of dining, blogging, and PR in New York City may shed some light on why only those with the deepest of pockets seem destined to survive. But, ultimately, says co-owner Santiago, “I think for us the biggest issue was our space itself. The location was tough, the physical location. In the end, that’s what did us in.” Continue Reading