In a bid to continue fighting the good fight in Downtown Buffalo, the owners of Misuta Chow’s are filing for Chapter 11. Owners Christi Allen and Johny Chow say that this has been a very tough decision, but they saw no other way out from under the debt incurred by the original buildout that went through an 8 month delay, and even further delays opening the kitchen, which they point out was beyond their control.
“We have crunched the numbers,” Allen says. “We have completed an emergency budget and are working our way towards a final budget. Originally, we were looking for 6 months finance support to get us through the winter, but three financial institutions would not work with us; thankfully we were supported by bankruptcy laws. Our bankruptcy attorney says that we’re in good shape and we’re going to be OK.”
“The buildout cost us twice as much as was budgeted, and we opened eight months later than was scheduled,” Chow added. “And even at that point, we were only able to open the bar, not the restaurant, because the kitchen buildout had still not been completed. We were packed to the gills every day of the week for months when we first opened the doors — it was an incredible outpouring of love and support. Unfortunately, a significant amount of all that revenue still had to go to our buildout costs. We opened with no working capital. We were forced behind the eight ball right from the start.”
Allen explains that she and her husband (Chow) are encouraged that downtown Main Street is just now starting to show its full promise. She says that they took a chance early on, and that they are committed to the district and to Downtown Buffalo. She and Chow are convinced that they have the right momentum to push the operation forward, now that they won’t have the burden of the drawn-out buildout debt weighing them down.
“We made some bad choices,” Allen reflects. “We partnered with an accountant that did not manage our funds properly, and she wasn’t transparent about it. We relieved her of her responsibilities and took over the books ourselves. But we aren’t accountants. There was a lot of trial and error because of that. Tax bills accrued. We took out two high-interest loans in an attempt to get back to zero, but these only made it harder for us to meet our financial obligations. We hired a debt consultant who turned out to have too full of a plate to dedicate the time necessary to our situation. We did everything we could, but were continually misguided and/or taken advantage of.”
No one wants to final Chapter 11, especially with a business like this that should easily be operating in the black.
“No one wants to final Chapter 11,” Chow says. “Especially with a business like this that should easily be operating in the black. But we need some relief. We need a moment to breathe. And that’s what this does for us. This gives us the time and space to build the capital we need so we can reorganize our debts and create viable repayment plans, and stay true to our word with all our vendors, lenders and creditors.”
Allen and Show told me that they are prepared to come out swinging, with a dedicated staff, including a new head chef Andy Berger whose vision for the restaurant is aligned with everything that they stand for. According to Allen, as of late their food business has been on par with their bar business, which is exactly where they want to be. They equate that partially to Berger and their dedicated staff, and partially to their devoted customer base.
“From Day 1, the City of Buffalo has fully embraced us. We couldn’t be more grateful and humbled by the love everyone has shown Misuta Chow’s as we approach our two-year anniversary. Thanks to the loyalty of all our patrons, we’re able to run a killer bar and restaurant — a place that everyone feels welcome no matter who they are; a place where everyone has fun — and our daily operations are easily supported by the business coming in.”
Per usual, Chow and Allen will continue on with their inventive nature, by collaborating with Lucky Koi bubble tea, the Cherry Blossom Festival, Borderland, and Cobblestone Live. They are also moving forward with a pop up yoga series, and plan on launching a new mobile arcade that will make appearances at festivals and events throughout WNY.
“We’ve taken a couple of serious hits,” Allen maintains. “But we have plenty of Hello Kitty Band-Aids and will be fine.”