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This Capitol Hill restaurant survived opening just as COVID-19 hit but couldn’t keep up with Broadway rent

(Image: Star Fusion)

Imagine opening your restaurant in a $12,000-a-month Capitol Hill space eight days before the neighborhood blog ran its first headline on the COVID-19 virus. Now imagine managing to stay in business for another 21 months.

Now it’s time for Ernie Enkhtaivan to give up. Broadway’s Star Fusion and Bar is set to close as Enkhtaivan has a deal set with a buyer for the business and is ready to make his exit from the Capitol Hill food and drink scene.

“I’m out of funds,” Enkhtaivan told CHS this week. “We might eventually regroup but want to clear our minds right now.”

Star opened in February 2020 in an unusually large Broadway space as a family-run restaurant and packed its menu with everything from from sashimi to Mongolian beef stew.

The restaurant’s menu packed a lot in — including beef stew (Image: Star Fusion)

Inability to stay ahead of the rent for the 3,000-square-foot restaurant also ended the run for its previous tenant. “It’s large — which translates to expensive,” Edgar Pelayo of Añejo Restaurant and Tequila Bar told CHS about the space. It closed in 2019 after only a year and a half of business.

Star’s lifespan will be equally short. But it will likely feel much longer to Enkhtaivan. The pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions temporarily shuttered the brand new restaurant. When it was finally time to emerge again, Star had to quickly adjust to all-delivery, and then limited in-service business.

Along the way, Enkhtaivan said Star couldn’t get the loans it needed to survive though it did receive two rounds of federal Paycheck Protection Program support to help it pay workers. But without deeper support and without a friendly deal with his landlords, Enkhtaivan said Star has accumulated so much debt that it became time to shut it down.

“If we were able to get approved for any loan, we would have stayed in business no problem,” he said.

Now there is a buyer lined up — though even that transaction has been a challenge, Enkhtaivan said as the commercial unit is going through a sale and the new landlords will need to sign off on changing the lease to the new concept being readied to move in.

The former owner of the space had been a part of Broadway for four decades. Dilettante’s parent company purchased the unit for $1.2 million in 2007, according to King County records, and opened its Dilettante Mocha Café in the space. In 2017, the company announced it would be exiting the street. The business started in 1976 with a cafe called simply “The Dilettante” in the 400 block of Broadway E.

Now, Star Fusion is planned to remain open for about a week as business wraps up and neighborhood regulars stop in to say thanks and goodbye.

“Our customers were very supportive,” Enkhtaivan said. “They loved us. We loved them. It was just bad timing.”

 

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Jennifer Emrich
Jennifer Emrich
5 months ago

So sad. One of my favorites. :(

Andrew K
Andrew K
5 months ago

Me too!

Jack
Jack
5 months ago

Shout out to Ernie for providing excellent food and service over the last ~2 years

Christopher
Christopher
5 months ago

Their food was mediocre and 1.5x the price of establishments serving the same food in the area. I’m tired of businesses complaining about rent when the real issue is lack of differentiation from other businesses in the area, aside from higher prices.

Don’t take the risk if you haven’t done market research/have the capital to fund said venture through rough times.

Sad to see a small business fail, but their staff was always amazing! I wish them the best!