After six years, Branson’s Center Stage Grille and Kaffee Haus has unexpectedly closed their doors for good.
On Saturday, Oct. 2, Owners Bill Kitchin and Leah Smith announced on Facebook they would be closing the doors to their restaurant at 8 p.m. that evening.
“To all our friends and family who have supported us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will miss your laughs, smiles, comradely, but the memories will be with us forever,” the post on Facebook read. “With the uncertainty of the economic climate being what it is, it is a difficult decision we had to make. To all of our peers in the industry, we have some great team members that would be an asset to business…We will miss seeing all of you regularly, we are not saying goodbye because we know we will see you around.”
In a Monday interview, Smith said their reason behind closing all has to do with COVID.
“The numbers just wouldn’t work by the time we increased our labor costs and also our food cost kept going up higher and higher and higher,” Smith said. “That’s not something you can really control these days, it’s just what’s happening. Then of course, you can’t get a lot of things either that you want to buy. They’re on back order. COVID, if it hadn’t been for that we would still be doing this for a very long time.”
Smith added they had been holding out for a while now in hopes the economy and climate would change.
“We kept thinking it was going to turn around. Then when it didn’t, and we didn’t want to put ourselves in a bad situation as far as we wanted to be able to walk away and not owe anybody anything,” Smith said. “That’s where we’re at right now, so it only made sense to end it before it was too late.”
Since announcing the closure of the restaurant, Smith said she’s been doing what she can to help her staff find employment elsewhere.
“We had built the best staff we ever had. I mean everyone here was like family,” Smith said. “They all cried. I helped them all find jobs and almost all of them already have jobs already to go to.”
While Smith and Kitchin owned the business, she said they were not the owners of the property.
“My dad owns the building. His name is Dan Smith and he will be putting the building up for sale,” Smith said. “It will be more like a turnkey operation for sale, because the chairs and tables and all the equipment and everything goes with the sale of the building.”
Just last month, on Monday, Sept. 20, Branson Center Stage began hosting an Open Mic Night/Songwriters Contest, which took place each Monday evening. The open mic portion of the night ran from 9 to 11 p.m., with the songwriters contest following from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The weekly contest also welcomed several Branson area celebrity judges, such as The Haygoods, Reza, Doug Gabriel, Yakov Smirnoff, David Orlando, Louis Michael, Robbie Howard, Terry Beene and a few others. Though discussions are still underway, Smith said they believe they found a new home for the songwriters contest with Capital Resorts.
“They’re going to do it at Stormy Point, every Monday night from 6 to 10 p.m.,” Smith said. “I had a few places competing with me to get it there, after they saw the announcement, but I feel like they’re going to be the best fit for the amount of space we need and the time and what they’re willing to do for the judges and all that.”
Smith said she believes the plan, as of right now, is to host the concert at the Stormy Point Village Pirate’s Harbor Bar.
“It will have plenty of room for everyone who wants to come,” Smith said. “They’re also going to be promoting it to their guests as well, so people will have a lot more audience then they would have at a different place.”
To accommodate the move of the contest, Smith said they took Monday, Oct. 4 off, but should have things ready to go by the next upcoming Monday. Smith added they’re going to have to reevaluate the originally scheduled Oct. 25 finale contest, which would have brought all the Monday winners of the first month of the contest together to compete against each other.
To help sweeten the winners pot, Smith said one of the contest judges has added a special opportunity for the winner of the finale contest when it takes place.
“David Orlando, who is Tony Orlando’s little brother, has a recording studio and knows a lot of bigger names in the music business,” Smith said. “Not only will the winner be receiving cash prizes, they will be able to get recorded by him and he’s going to release their original single to try and get some radio play. He’s going to release it in a whole bunch of places and… he’s going to use his friends to help that person and get somewhere with their songs.”
Once all the details for the songwriters contest have been placed in stone, Smith said she’ll let people know by sharing them on Facebook.
Following the closing of their restaurant, Smith said she is opening herself up to new opportunities and will be looking for something new to do, while Kitchin has decided to retire.
“I would really love to tell the readers from Bill and I that we’ve appreciated them all these years. We’ve formed a lot of relationships in this town over the years that no matter if we have a business or not we’ve made a lot of friendships and met a lot of good people,” Smith said. “We’ll still be there to help if there’s anything we can do to help somebody, Bill and I will still want to do that whether we have a restaurant or not.”
Visit the ‘Branson Center Stage Grille’ page on Facebook for additional information.