Sept. 30 will be the day the music died at the Hard Rock Cafe. A spokesperson for Hard Rock International confirmed Wednesday that after nine years, the chain's days are numbered at Block E in downtown Minneapolis.
"We have run a successful business in Minneapolis, but the current site has created challenges that prevent us from continuing to operate at this location," the company said in a statement. Spokesperson Meredith DeSanti would not comment further.
Earlier this year, Block E's owner, Alatus, revealed plans to build a luxury casino on the Block E site and sought legislation that would allow for gambling in downtown. Alatus bought the development in 2010 for $14 million and assumption of $28.5 million in tax-increment-finance repayments. Alatus' plan called for a $200 million-plus Las Vegas-style casino, but a vote to expand gambling never occurred in the last legislative session. Alatus principals Bob Lux and Phillip Jaffe could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Hard Rock Cafe opened in 2002, just as Block E was getting off the ground. The 9,000-square-foot restaurant was decked out with rock memorabilia from the likes of Madonna, Tina Turner and hometown hero Prince. A giant guitar was erected on the corner of 7th Street and 1st Avenue N.
Almost a decade later, the restaurant is one of the last anchor tenants left, with Borders, GameWorks and Bellanotte long gone. The recent exodus of restaurants includes Hooters, Applebee's and Panchero's. In April, a Panchero's spokesperson said the Mexican grill was forced out of its lease, something Block E's owner denied.
Andrea Christenson, a downtown retail broker for Cassidy Turley, said Hard Rock's impending closure likely has more to do with slow business than any disagreement between Hard Rock and Alatus.
"The problem with concepts like that is they are heavily geared towards tourists," Christenson said. "We just don't have that mass influx of traffic in downtown. But the location is obviously viable -- just look at Kieran's. They get the touristy baseball traffic, but they get the regulars, too."
Hard Rock International still operates more than 100 restaurants around the world. In 2006, the company was purchased by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for nearly $1 billion.