Eatery launched amid COVID thrives on event business

Terry Anthony adjusts his hours during the week as business merits. (Photo courtesy of The Block Bistro & Grill)

The Block Bistro & Grill

115 W. Market St.

Owner: Terry Anthony

Terry Anthony launched The Block Bistro & Grill during the height of the pandemic.

It was February 2021, when the delta variant of COVID-19 was filling up hospitals again and delaying many companies’ plans to bring workers back to the office.

And it was no place Anthony expected to be.

A year earlier, he’d been forced to shut down the Subway franchise he leased downtown after the exit of office workers caused his sales to plummet. He had no immediate interest in trying again downtown, especially after a weekend of social unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis left the area scarred in summer 2020.

But the manager of the Block Building, which offers loft-style apartments at 114 W. Market St., made him an offer: The building would give him great terms on the lease of a vacant restaurant space on the ground floor if he’d clean it up and open a new eatery. Then the city came along with some incentives, Anthony said, and he decided, “What the hell? I don’t have nothing to lose. Let’s rock it.”

Now, two years after the restaurant opened, Anthony said he feels confident about The Block Bistro’s future.

The keys to the restaurant’s success, he said, have been the generous terms from his landlord, the quicker-than-expected return of convention and event business, and his willingness to be flexible as downtown recovers.

In fact, Anthony said, it was the pandemic and other downtown problems that gave him the opportunity at all, creating the conditions that made a flexible lease make sense for the landlord.

“It opened up the possibility for us to be visionaries, to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t Armageddon. The world will start back spinning again at some point,’” Anthony said. “We just wanted to be positioned to where we could take advantage of it.”

That’s meant being open longer hours from Thursday through Sunday, when conventions and sports events are in town, but for dinner only earlier in the week when there are fewer people downtown. He has tried to accommodate legislators when they’re in town, as well.

But outside visitors drive much of his business—and he credits Visit Indy, Downtown Indy Inc. and the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association for the work they’ve done to bring visitors downtown.

“Almost every weekend, if not every weekend … we have something that’s coming through here that gives us an opportunity to go out and gain some revenue,” Anthony said. “You have to restructure your business to take advantage of that.”•

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