DESTIN — The BP oil spill has claimed another business, as Commander’s Palace at HarborWalk Village closed its doors Saturday.
The restaurant opened as one of the anchor businesses at HarborWalk Village in the summer of 2008.
“It’s very sad,” said Peter Bos, CEO of Legendary Inc., which developed HarborWalk Village. “Just as the economy was turning and everything was going well, the oil hit and it hit the high-end products the worse.
“What happened was everybody tightened their belts,” Bos added. “Going to a white-linen restaurant like Commander’s got cut off the list. It’s no different than people who used to buy a new car every two years. Many of them have a three- or four-year old car right now. Yours truly included.”
The original Commander‘s Palace opened in New Orleans in 1880. The Destin location was the second attempt to expand the franchise beyond New Orleans. A Commander’s Palace opened in Las Vegas in 2001 and closed a few years later.
Bos said landing Commander’s Palace was critical to selling HarborWalk Village and Emerald Grande as an upscale development above the competition.
“Commander’s Palace was a rifle shot,” Bos said. “We went after one of the Top 10 restaurants in the United States. Our original goal was to bring in a fine-dining, high-end, well-known restaurant to Emerald Grande, and that was part of the original design concept going back seven or eight years ago. Our first choice was actually Commander’s Palace.”
Some of the restaurant’s staff will move to the New Orleans location while others will stay on with Legendary, Bos said. He added that Legendary is trying to find employment for still others who worked at the restaurant.
For now, Bos said he plans to keep the Commander’s Palace building vacant to wait for the market and economy to improve. Bos said the wedding and catering business has been booming recently at HarborWalk Village, and the Commander’s Palace site will be folded into Legendary’s food and beverage department as a banquet location.
“It may be the place is so busy with weddings and caterings that we don’t lease it,” Bos said. “Remember, when we started this it was to give the reputation and perception to the marketplace of how high quality Emerald Grande was going to be. This was when Emerald Grande was just raw concrete. Now that it’s built, everyone knows how high quality it is, so that’s not as important as it used to be.”