Monday, July 12, 2010

Tales from the Parkside

I've had some really good meals at Parkside over the years, but having learned of chef/owner Shawn Cirkiel and his parents' attempt to strong-arm The Best Wurst out of their longtime spot at the corner of Sixth and San Jacinto, I'm done with them (at least for now).

The Best Wurst has been on the disputed corner since 1993. By all accounts, they had a good working relationship with Dan McKlusky's, the restaurant that occupied 301 E. Sixth St. prior to Parkside's arrival in 2007.

Now Parkside is building a balcony that will overlook Sixth St. A sidewalk cafe is planned next. Perhaps not so coincidentally, when The Best Wurst's operating permit came up for renewal earlier this year, Cirkiel asked the city to deny it. The mobile bratwurst cart is currently operating on a week-to-week permit until the issue is resolved. From The Best Wurst's press release:

Among the several allegations, Parkside asserts that Best Wurst creates a public safety hazard and has violated their license agreement with the City of Austin. They also assert Best Wurst blocks vehicular traffic and "impedes the flow of pedestrian traffic" and renders the sidewalk "impassable." "All these allegations are total nonsense," states (Best Wurst owner Jon) Notarthomas. "We have an outstanding record with the City as well as the health department." Amongst other claims, the Cirkiels state The Best Wurst blocks the view of the "Sixth Street experience" for its customers, promotes a "bad boy" image, and sells products that compete with the Parkside's French seafood menu.

I didn't want to post about this until Cirkiel had a chance to publicly respond. Thus far, his comments to the Statesman and on the Best Wurst's Facebook page have come across as more than a little disingenuous.

"Why is it wrong for me to not want my front window blocked with people eating, making a mess, and causing trouble?" Cirkiel asks in one post.

Dude, you run a restaurant and you're upset about people eating in front of it? If anything, you should be thanking The Best Wurst's customers for blocking your diners' picture-window view of "Sixth Street Experience" standards such as drunken revelers vomiting up their Jell-O shots. And I don't think anyone sober enough to stumble through Parkside's doors is going to mistake $30 Chilean sea bass for a $4.50 brat.

Perhaps Parkside thought no one would care if they tried to force a venerable local business off "their" public sidewalk. I think they're going to find out that Austin can be a hard place to do business in if you do something that is popularly perceived to be malevolent. Running a restaurant in the middle of a recession is hard enough without dealing with an image problem like this.

Accordingly, my unsolicited PR advice to Cirkiel would be to try and work something out with The Best Wurst. Figure out what you really need from Best Wurst and engineer a mutually beneficial compromise that allows both businesses to coexist. Bury the hatchet publicly and with good humor.

Until then, there are plenty of other nice restaurants in town.


Susan said...

Amen, and amen! It makes no sense to feed the success of one thriving small business (Parkside) with the sacrifice of another (Best Wurst). I also hope that Chef Cirkiel can find a way to work it out with Best Wurst and these two business can become good neighbors.

Undercover Mexican Girl said...

Excellent article, Greg, thank you for writing this. Your points are eloquent and concise. That's what The Best Wurst wants - to co-exist in a friendly manner on 6th and San Jacinto so that both businesses may thrive and mutually benefit.

Joseph Shuffield said...

Parkside can either gain or lose business through their behavior towards Best Wurst and its patrons, which are potentially their patrons--why can't they see that? Thank you for stating the case so clearly.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is if the city caves to Parkside then other 6th st businesses will file against food vendors and they will soon all be gone. The city gave a permit to Parkside without proper legal channels and then the Parkside owners and the city are now trying to cover their asses for lies and mistakes. Never forget that this present city council is pretty much worthless when it comes to the small guy. Just move your new business to 6th and make sure it's rich and white and then start making rules. Yeah, nice.