Black's 501 Steakhouse & Sky Event Center closes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Black's 501 Steakhouse & Sky Event Center closes


Less than six months after opening, economic pressures are forcing a downtown Waterloo restaurant to close again.  Barmuda Companies closed Black's 501 Steakhouse and Piano Bar as well as the Sky Event Center in the Black's Building.

The two-story restaurant and 8th floor event center have undergone some $2 million in renovations.  And now they sit empty.  But there's hope that the growing downtown business district will encourage a new owner to take over the facilities.

Black's 501 Steakhouse and Piano Bar in downtown Waterloo is now just a shell of what it once was.  The business abruptly closed with owner Darin Beck saying the restaurant was just losing too much money.

In a press release, Beck said the following:

"Due to the enormous size of Black's facilities, and the amount of money it takes to operate on a daily basis, it was simply no longer possible to remain open with the amount of revenue being generated by operations there."

That's on top of what Beck calls an ongoing dispute from renovation costs at the building, leaving him with no choice but to close Black's 501 and the Sky Event Center located in the same building.

"We had high hopes for it.  But unfortunately, you know Darin is a businessman.  He had that tough call to make and he made it.  So we certainly are hopeful that it'll bring new opportunities through the closing of that business," said Jeff Kurtz, executive director of Main Street Waterloo.

The location was previously home to Roux Orleans, which opened in 2009.  When Beck closed it down, before revamping it into Black's 501, he put part of the blame on people's perception of downtown Waterloo.

"People say that there isn't enough parking in downtown Waterloo and that it's not safe in downtown Waterloo or that it's not clean in downtown Waterloo and nothing could be further from the truth in all three cases," Beck said, when interviewed in January.

And Main Street Waterloo is most disappointed that Black's 501 couldn't succeed, since the downtown has been seeing more foot traffic than ever.

"We are seeing record crowds for the special events we do.  The Irish fest was huge this year, bigger than ever.  Our Barbecue Loo was bigger than ever.  Our Friday Loo's draw huge crowds.  There's more places down here all the time, so certainly it's competitive.  But no, we're seeing this as a great place for night life.  People are living here, and people are working here," said Beck.

But now that a restaurant and event venue have closed in a big Waterloo metro space, Main Street officials are just hoping that traffic and Black's prime location will be attractive to another business owner looking to make the move downtown.

Several weddings and events had already been booked for the Sky Event Center this fall.  Darin Beck says his staff is working with those parties to provide refunds or secure other venues.  The Waterloo Convention and Visitor's Bureau is also willing to help those affected by the closure in finding another place for their events.

Darin Beck says there are enough job openings at other Barmuda locations that anyone who worked at Black's 501 or the Sky Center should be able to stay with the company if they choose to do so. 

Meanwhile, Midtown properties, which owns the Black's building, is very disappointed in Beck's decision to close the facilities.  Donna Nelson with Midtown says she only learned of those plans after KWWL told her.  Nelson disputes Darin Beck's claims about the unpaid construction costs.  Beck says he has no plans to reinvent the facility again and is "walking away" from his lease.

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