April 24, 2008 at 9:53 am | blabbing.

Alanna and I were at Magnolia brew pub last night. After years and years of going there, I can safely say that we probable won’t be going there for a while. The owners have decided to totally change the food and the vibe of the whole place. Both Alanna and I agree that this is a bad sign and probable spells the end for the place.

Magnolia used to be this great little place where you can have a great beer and lots of great pub food like fish and chips and burgers and lots nicely priced salads and things. Not to mention the best fried chicken Thursday night ever. Over the years the menu has changed slightly adding things and taking things away but has been pretty much the same. People come for the beer and stay for the tasty and nicely priced food.

The ambiance of the place is decidedly down to earth as well. The walls are done with murals depicting various incarnations of Grateful Dead and Phish tributes, and though I don’t really like either band they are well done and give the place a decidedly Haight Ashbury feel. The wait staff has been super cool and does a great job of getting stuff done is such a small and crowded place.

Enter Alembic. Alembic is a the sister restaurant that went in down the block and is more upscale. It has a full bar and only really serves small plates of food. We went there a couple of times and didn’t really like the vibe or the food. Unfortunately, Alembic is the template for what the owners want for Magnolia.

Magnolias winning formula was the fact that it is a locals spot for a nice beer and food that is reasonable priced, it has nice wait staff, good service and nice music. It fills a niche in our neighborhood that no one else covers. The new place will have a more expensive menu, totally changed decor, different music and wait staff due to people quitting over the changes.

The locals have already stopped coming even before they have changed the decor to match their new menu. On a Thursday night which used to be a packed night, we were able to walk right in and get a table, and there were open tables the entire time we were there.

A classic case of killing the golden goose. The restaurant is doing really well so the owners decide they could do even better by totally changing the place. Wrong. What they are doing is moving the restaurant into a different price range that their regular customers don’t like and can’t afford. This new price range will also put them in a new bracket as far as food is concerned and their new food does not measure up to similarly priced places elsewhere.

So Magnolia it comes down to that old song “Who are the people in your neighborhood?“. Who is your customer? Who is your regular?

As the country sinks into a recession, the locals that have sustained the place and come there over and over again may not be coming regularly now. The new menu and decor has to be good enough to sustain a totally new customer that will have to come to the neighborhood specifically for your food and decor and you will have to compete with other places in the city that are similarly priced. We don’t want a velvet curtain and $15 burgers as the cheapest thing on the menu.

Goodbye Magnolia! It’s been fun. We wish you all the best.