Havana Nights closes in Va. Beach Town Center, third restaurant to close since June

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-09 17:42:38-04

Virginia Beach, Va. – Havana Nights, a restaurant located in Virginia Beach’s Town Center, has closed its doors.  Saturday was the restaurant’s last day after two years of business.

“It had good food, it had a jazz club, it had all the things you could possibly ask for,” said Joe Dorto who was a cigar club member at Havana Nights.

It offered a unique experience, combining a restaurant with a cigar club and jazz lounge.

“We’ve had just some amazing talent in here over the past couple years,” said owner Dana Rice.

Rice says his passion for the music wasn't enough, though.  It wasn’t making enough money to stay open.

Havana Nights is the third restaurant to close in Town Center within about four months.

Red Star was closed by the city in July for not paying taxes.

The month before, Guadalajara closed after a fatal shooting nearby.

Rice says that's not an indication of how things are going for Town Center.

“I think those were unique situations, very unique situations, that were totally unrelated to what we’re doing here,” Rice said, “The financial challenges that we had here were more the result of the fact that were trying to achieve three niche businesses.”

The closings come as a new tower is being built and some spaces in existing buildings are still vacant.

“I used to have a condo over at the Westin and I sold it at a loss.  I just think that they need to be concerned about the quality and about helping the people that come in here with restaurants, maybe help market it a little bit better,” said Dorto.

Rice has a more optimistic view.

“I fully believe that Town Center could have both of those spaces leased by now without question, but they’re trying to get the appropriate retailer in,” Rice said.

Julie Trudell, Vice President of Investor Relations for Armada Hoffler, says retailers and restaurants have expressed interest in the open locations.

A new retailer, Destination Maternity, also opened up in late August and Trudell says the Westin, located next to Havana Nights, might be looking for room to expand.

Rice says he's also heard from a few groups interested in his place.

In the meantime, he's leaving Town Center with no regrets.

“I’ll have wonderful memories of what we did here - what we provided for the community as well as for the musicians,” said Rice.