Shockingly and suddenly.
Located in the former Soho Lounge building at 175 NE 36th St., Morales' club and sports bar were heavily hyped, despite what the proprietor himself admits were "numerous obstacles, frustrations, and delays just to get the doors open."
And now, after being "barely open a few months," Bizerq and Benchwarmers are closed. For his part, Morales blames "exorbitant rent," which he tells Crossfade was $32,000 per month.
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Bizerq's opening night: Friday, August 29, 2014.
Cesar Morales' Statement on Closing of Bizerq and Benchwarmers
After a lot of going back and forth, I have come to the difficult conclusion that I must close Benchwarmers and Bizerq. There were numerous obstacles, frustrations and delays just to get the doors open. We were barely open a few months, yet it doesn't make business sense to keep going. In retrospect the business was doomed from the inception. I was over-confident in thinking any business could pay such exorbitant rent. It is now obvious why the building sat empty for the last 6-7 years.
We were forced to create Benchwarmers at the last minute to comply with food requirements for the liquor license, and sadly it showed. As time went it became increasingly obvious that the numbers, even at their best, could not support the rent. I wanted to hold on as long as I could for the sake of the staff. It's a horrible feeling to know that 30+ people no longer have jobs.
I am grateful for the regulars who frequented Benchwarmers and for the people who stopped by Bizerq in the short two months it was open. I also want to thank the entire staff for doing their thing and putting in the love and effort. I especially want to thank Erin Hansen who was there from day one and busted her ass to get us open. She was a trooper and I am saddest of all to see her go. It was a tough journey but we did everything we could. I walk away humbled and (more than ever) grateful for how amazing Wood is.
Once again thank you for those that showed love and my sincerest apologies to the staff.
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Storied mid-2000s hipster hangout Soho Lounge.
News of Cesar Morales' plans for Bizerq broke at the end of October 2013 -- exactly a year ago, and a whole ten months before the club's eventual August 2014 opening -- when we here at Crossfade reported that the Wood Tavern owner had leased the building at 175 NE 36th St., where storied mid-2000s hipster hangout Soho Lounge once threw its parties.
At the time, Morales predicted an opening date of "mid-December" 2013. However, as the owner notes in his closing statement, the project soon became caught up in repeated deferrals and bureaucratic holdups.
Ultimately, Benchwarmers -- which ended up occupying the building's main-floor unit -- opened for business before Bizerq. But in his closing note, Morales describes the sports bar as a "last minute" creation designed to "comply with food requirements for the liquor license."
So, it seems, the Wood Tavern Group founder was already scrambling -- and losing money -- when his party spot finally opened on the second floor of 175 NE 36th St.
Still, Morales remained optimistic. And he kept on being optimistic. Until today.
Now, with the closure of Bizerq and Benchwarmers, Wood Tavern Group has effectively ceased to exist.
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