After the general manager of Acme Bar & Grill told us that the restaurant would be closing, we got a message from its owner, Robert Pollock. Pollock, who inherited the Great Jones Street establishment in 1995, wanted to let us know that the place would only be closed temporarily for renovations. Curious to know what sort of establishment it would be when it reopens, we called Pollock and got some answers.
“I know this is insane,” Pollock says of the sudden closure. “But we had to make some drastic changes.” The almost 25-year-old restaurant, he explains, “was built on a shoestring” and has long been in dire need of renovations. “A new HVAC, kitchen, exhaust system” are among the structural updates he’ll be making during Acme’s closure, which he estimates will be a few months.
And then there are the updates to the restaurant’s staff. “We’re dealing with a problem right now at the bar where employees didn’t come in and didn’t know what was happening,” he says. “We had a bunch of drunk employees in the place.” He pauses. “They’ve been loyal employees for years. We just need some changes.”
Can he elaborate upon why he’s rewarding their loyalty in this manner? “I don’t know what to tell you.” Another pause. “It’s become a little sloppy.” Although Acme’s “C” rating “eventually got to maybe a ‘B'” (it’s actually still a “C”), there were “cleanliness” issues. “Everything has been a Band-Aid, not been a real fix. We were just fixing as we went along. The employees weren’t too happy when I went to close [the restaurant] a few months ago; they didn’t want to take off. It was almost like fighting a union. There were a lot of things going on that I didn’t like. I tried to make corrections, and they didn’t like it.”
Pollock, who also owns the Great Jones Spa, has been busy “picking up a lot of great personnel from restaurants that have been closing in the past year.” He declines to say which ones.
When Acme reopens, he says, “it’s going to be a contemporary Acme” and “a much-better-tasting Acme.” Although some of the menu, which is heavy on calorie-intensive Cajun and Southern dishes, will remain intact, Pollock is “hoping for lighter fare. We want a healthier meal. It’s known as the place you can only eat once a year. I don’t want that. I want it to be a place where [people] can go once a week instead of once in a while.”
Pollock is hoping the food will attract “new faces and new money,” though he claims he’d like Acme to remain “a neighborhood bar” and to retain its clientele. Whether his current customers will recognize the new Acme remains to be seen: When it reopens, Pollock says, “it’s not going to be the roadhouse look anymore. It will have a more contemporized look. Warm and at the same time contemporary. When you go in there, you’ll have the reminiscence of Acme. It’ll be on the walls.”
Though maybe not in its famous hot-sauce collection. “There are a lot of dust collectors now,” Pollock says.”We wanted to make it feel a little cleaner.”