An observation about Downtown Santa Ana’s recent restaurant closures. 

JasonQuinn-e1428073496942Source: Julie Leopo / Voice of OC

Last April, Julie Leopo did an awesome story for Voice of OC titled “The Voices of Fourth Street.”

Leopo interviewed restauranteur Jason Quinn. In case you didn’t know, Quinn is an Orange County culinary superstar. He was raised in OC, launched The Lime Truck, won the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race” and opened his first critically-acclaimed restaurant, Playground, in Santa Ana.

The opening of Playground in 2011 was critical for real estate developer Ryan Chase’s efforts to redevelop a cluster of largely Latino-owned and operated businesses, known as Fiesta Marketplace. The new name of the area? East End.

East End would cater to Orange County’s wealthier residents by offering chef-driven culinary concepts, trendy stores and upgraded entertainment options.

“People look at people like myself and they say like, ‘Oh, he’s replacing Mexican businesses,’ and uh..the business that were here failed,” Quinn told Voice of OC in April 2015.  

4th-Street-MarketSource: Parenting OC

Quinn was involved in the opening of 4th Street Market in February 2015, located across the street from Playground. The plan was for 4th Street Market to become a culinary hub for Orange County foodies, rivaling popular food halls like the Anaheim Packing District and Grand Central Market in Los Angeles.

Chase told the Orange County Register, “4th Street Market is probably the biggest game changer to hit downtown in a long time. It will bring energy and life to the area.”

When 4th Street Market opened, Quinn had three eateries (Wagyu Chuck, Playground Fried Chicken and Noodle Tramp), a grocery store (Honor Roll), a bar (Recess) and a bakery (Dough Exchange) housed at the market.

A year later, all of Quinn’s concepts closed at the food hall, except for Recess.

DSC_0016-720x400Source: GrubTribe

Quinn is not alone. Downtown Santa Ana has seen a number of restaurant closures over the past few years. Recently, The North Left closed its doors, along with Boldo Bol, Ink Waffles and Paninoteca Maggio. Acclaimed bistro, Little Sparrow, is listed for sale. In 2014, DTSA saw the closure of Vineyard Roz and Tabu Burgers and Bites.

It’s common to see restaurants close in a business district. But when a figure like Quinn pulls out of “the biggest game changer to hit downtown in long time,” it makes you wonder about the relative health of Downtown Santa Ana.

Is it just me or is there a giant red flag waving over “The New Downtown Santa Ana?”

Originally posted 2016-04-12 21:57:52.

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