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Owner of Popular Downtown BK Restaurant Grapples With Second Closure in 4 Months

Restauranteur Joseph Adewumi shuttered his popular eatery, Amarachi, in June 2023. Three weeks ago, his second venture, Blu Room Bar & Lounge, closed too, but he's not giving up.
Joseph "Bubby" Adewumi.

Just four months ago, beloved community member Joseph Adewumi was forced to close Amarachi, his popular West African restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn, due to financial hardship brought on by the pandemic. 

Shortly after closing, Adewumi — affectionately known as "Bubby" to his friends and customers — joined forces with Blu Room Bar & Lounge, a small bar in Prospect Heights on Vanderbilt Avenue, to serve his best dishes. But unfortunately, just three weeks ago, Blu Room was also forced to close permanently. 

"It's like two divorces back-to-back," Adewumi told BK Reader.

​The story started in 2004 when Adewumi opened Amarachi with his wife, Maxine. The menu was a fusion of their cultures: he is Nigerian, and she is Trinidadian.

"We had a love for food and we wanted to share the newfound discovery that our culture's foods really complement each other,"  Adewumi said. 

Though Amarachi gained notoriety with a visit from Nigerian royalty, Adewumi said the business took years to become profitable. Soon after it did, the pandemic struck, which was especially hard on Amarachi, which used to host large events.

"I had a customer literally cry on the phone that we were closed because she envisioned having her wedding at Amarachi," said Adewumi.

Amarachi Restaurant. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader.

​During the pandemic, Adewumi also suffered a devastating loss, when his brother Jonathan passed away from COVID-19 in May 2020. 

"What he meant to the business could just not be replaced," said Adewumi.

When Amarachi's financial situation became dire, Adewumi began a fundraising campaign, which raised around $12,000. Sadly, it was not enough to save the business. 

After closing, Adewumi was approached by the owner of Blu Room. Located near Prospect Park, Blu Room was surrounded by other successful bars but failed to gain footing since opening last summer. Adewumi said the street's lack of parking was part of why it failed to take off, also adding that the neighborhood already has several crowd favorites. 

Adewumi said he saw it as an opportunity to move on from Amarachi and help another business struggling to make ends meet.  

"I thought with my experience and my following, we could probably make a difference and turn things around," Adewumi said. "The speed at which we were gaining new customers was just not fast was just not fast enough for us to survive."

The now-closed Blu Room Bar & Lounge. Photo: Google Street View.

​Now, Adewumi is reflecting on his experiences and sounding the alarm on the challenges small business owners in New York City face.

"The city demands too much from its owners," said Adewumi, who added that the burden of managing sales tax is one of the main issues for owners. "When business owners decide to own a business, their dream is to carry out their business, not to become tax agents."

Additionally, Adewumi said he noticed the spending habits of customers have changed post-pandemic.

"If they love you, they'll find something less expensive on the menu," said Adewumi. "If they're just casual customers, they probably just replace you altogether."

According to Eater, a publication that tracks restaurant openings and closings, reported at least 4,500 food businesses have closed since March 2020, including more than 70 restaurants from June to September 2023. 

Now, Adewumi is pondering his next move, but remains optimistic. Despite significant losses, he said he will 'never say never' to returning to the food industry.

In the meantime, he is planning to share his experiences through a book or podcast.

"My experience is one that and that has a lot of teachable moments," Adewumi said.

Christopher Edwards

About the Author: Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards is a native Brooklynite and current student at Baruch College, majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing.
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