Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits is closing after nearly four years at Krog Street Market, the Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported. The restaurant closes after dinner service on Sunday, February 27.
Owned by Jesse Smith, Matt Christison, Bryan Rackley, and Miles Macquarrie, the team behind Decatur’s Kimball House, Watchman’s opened at the food hall in 2018 serving a seafood menu dedicated to the sustainability of Southern aquaculture and the region’s farmers and fishermen.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but we’ve come to the conclusion that the Watchman’s concept is unfortunately not the best fit for the market,” Rackley tells Eater. “The reality of this pandemic world is that even our best efforts could not sustain the costs associated with staffing and operating this restaurant.”
While the restaurant was doing well prior to the pandemic, Rackley says the global health crisis affected Watchman’s more than it did Kimball House. The emergence of the Omicron variant in late 2021 and subsequent surge in cases during the holidays, coupled with the cold weather, had a profound impact on the Krog Street Market restaurant.
Rackley says Watchman’s started to recoup some of the sales lost during the first year of the pandemic last spring. Those numbers dropped again once construction kicked off behind the market and across the street at the Stove Works complex. Asana Partners, the developer behind the Stove Works, is also the owner of Krog Street Market and newly rebranded Krog Street District.
“If I have to blame anything, it is us. If we didn’t give the neighborhood what they wanted, that is on us,” says Rackley. “We tried too hard in the beginning. Now, it’s the best food and drinks we’ve had, and we are selling it to no one.”
However, the closing of Watchman’s does not affect the partners’ other endeavors, including Kimball House and the oyster farm Shiny Dimes they created out of rustic marina in Spring Creek, Florida. Located just off of Oyster Bay, the small 1.5 acre parcel is part of Cypress Point Farms and contains 55,000 oysters in its beds.
The passion project is meant to continue the legacy of sustainable oyster farming in the South by preserving and protecting the coastal environments of the region’s bivalves. Oysters from the farm are now served on the menu at Kimball House, alongside other sustainably farmed oysters from around the country.
“Watchman’s has been a great outlet for South Atlantic and Gulf farmed oysters, so losing that will be a bummer on multiple levels,” says Rackley. “I still love the idea of representing Gulf farms the way Watchman’s has and have not buried the idea that it can work here [in Atlanta].”
For now, Rackley, Smith, Christison, and Macquarrie are concerned about placing as many staff as possible from Watchman’s at Kimball House, calling it their “number one priority.”
“We got some things right, and we got some wrong. But one certainty is that we got the opportunity to work with some truly incredible people,” he says. “These folks took on significant risks to be a part of this team for the past 1.5 years, and we will always be grateful for their contributions.”