The rise and fall of Joe's Crab Shack

Cyril Josh Barker | 9/16/2015, 11:52 p.m.
When Joe’s Crab Shack built their first New York City location in Harlem in 2013, the company promised jobs and ...
Joe's Crab Shack closure AmNews photos

When Joe’s Crab Shack built their first New York City location in Harlem in 2013, the company promised jobs and a place where locals could go for good food. However, two years later, the restaurant shut its doors, leaving not only many people jobless but also a bad taste in the mouths of Harlemites.

The casual dining seafood chain closed their restaurant at 2349 Frederick Douglass Blvd., the company confirmed to the AmNews. Workers were seen taking down signage last Tuesday. The webpage for the location has been removed from the company’s website.

Smith (center), who waited in line for nearly 48 hours, cut the opening ceremony ribbon alongside property manager Michael Vercillo and the  president of Joe's Crab Shack, Jim Mazany.

(Courtenay Brown photo)

Smith (center), who waited in line for nearly 48 hours, cut the opening ceremony ribbon alongside property manager Michael Vercillo and the president of Joe's Crab Shack, Jim Mazany.

A sign on the door reads, “Sorry this location has closed. We have enjoyed serving this community for two years.” The sign also directs customers to the nearest Joe’s Crab Shack location, which is in the Bronx.

Joe’s Crab Shack told the AmNews that the reason for the closure was slow business.

“Our Harlem location wasn’t as successful as we had hoped,” the company said. “It’s always a difficult decision to close a restaurant, as it impacts the people who work for us.”

The uptown location was the restaurant chain’s first New York City location. A second location was opened at the Mall at Bay Plaza in the Bronx in 2014 and an- other in Elmhurst, Queens.

The Harlem location occupied a 10,000-square-foot space in a recently constructed building that is also occupied by Party City, DSW, Capital One Bank and Blink Fitness.

The restaurant was part of a wave of several chains that built uptown locations, including Red Lobster, Perkins Restaurant and Bakery and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Nearly 350 people were hired when the Joe’s Crab Shack opened in 2013. Some speculate that employees were given only a few days notice about the restaurant’s closure, whereas managers knew for at least month.

Joe’s Crab Shack said it could not comment on how many employees were working at the time the restaurant closed or how much advance notice employees received before the closure. However, employees were offered work at other locations.

“Employees were encouraged to apply for transfers to another Joe’s lo- cation. However, hiring is based on the need of each restaurant, so there were no guaranteed transfers,” the compa- ny said.

The AmNews broke the story about the closure online last week. The story then went viral on social media, getting thousands of shares.

One former employee, who requested to be identified only by her initials, J.L.D., said management did not listen to customer or worker complaints.

“I watched everything from sawdust to booming to embarrassing to empty,” she said. “Some of us really gave our all to give what our customers deserved.”

Many patrons complained that the food and service at that Joe’s Crab Shack location were unsatisfactory, and they weren’t shocked at the closure. On the business ratings and review website Yelp, Joe’s Crab Shack’s Harlem location had a 1.5-star rating out of 5. The company said the score was not a factor in the decision to close.

“The service was so bad that [they] gave us free meal coupons,” said Chanel Jones. “We gave them two months, tried again and the service only declined.”

Donna Brown-Baxter of the Bronx said on her first visit to the restaurant, it took more than an hour to get her food, and when it arrived, the order was wrong.

“I waited 40 minutes to be seated in what was an empty restaurant,” customer Sammy Roldan said. “When I finally got seated, I waited 20 minutes before anyone came to serve me. When the food came, it was cold.”

Noreen Holly said she once went to the restaurant with a large group and had a positive experience. However, a number of people in her party discovered later that money had been stolen from their credit card accounts.

Joe’s Crab Shack said they have no knowledge of any credit card information stolen by employees.