Sahm’s Restaurant Group closing downtown cafeteria, tavern

Ed Sahm

Indianapolis-based Sahm’s Restaurant Group, which operates more than a dozen restaurants and brewpubs in central Indiana, plans to close both of its downtown Indianapolis businesses because of a major decrease in customer traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sahm’s Cafeteria inside OneAmerica Tower, 200 N. Illinois St., is set to close at the end of October. Sahm’s Tavern, 433 N. Capitol Ave., inside the historic Gibson Building, has been closed since this spring and will not reopen.

“It is heartbreaking that it has come to this,” Sahm’s Restaurant Group founder and owner Ed Sahm wrote on Twitter Saturday in announcing the closures.

Because so many people are still working from home, the cafeteria’s revenue is only 5% of what it was before the pandemic, Sahm wrote.

The cafeteria moved into OneAmerica Tower in 2009 after six years at BMO Plaza. Sahm’s Tavern opened within a year after that in 3,600 square feet in the Gibson Building, which was built in 1916.

“Ten years of hard-ass work and dedication building a vibrant lunch spot and neighborhood hangout … POOF,” Sahm wrote. “It’s tough. Gut-wrenching, actually. We just couldn’t work out a plan with our landlord for a successful outcome for us.”

The company also uses the OneAmerica location as the hub of its catering operations. Sahm said catering activities will move to other Sahm’s locations, including Liter House, its German-themed brewpub at the corner of East 53rd Street and Winthrop Avenue.

Sahm said the company will continue its work with Second Helpings, a local not-for-profit food relief organization. Sahm’s began preparing meals for Second Helpings at its Sahm’s Cafeteria site this spring and has since prepared more than 200,000 meals for the organization.

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30 thoughts on “Sahm’s Restaurant Group closing downtown cafeteria, tavern

  1. Boo. Sahm’s Tavern downtown has been a standby for me for years – good staff, good food. Dang. Congratulations to the restaurateur for a job well done.

  2. When good performing operators start to shut down or close then it’s a sign that the industry is under duress and faces uncertainty for survival. The pandemic of fear (at this point) continues to erode businesses until they cannot survive any longer.

  3. I still believe the mayor, and the city county council could have done more. In a less than 6 months the virus has created a fear amongst them that they only allow what are safe CYA decisions. In the meantime we are losing service institutions that made you want to go downtown including Sahm’s.

    1. I still believe that if the President had consistently told us to wear masks and socially distance, the numbers would be low enough that everything would be open like it is in most of the World.

    2. Wesley guess you havent started your TDS meds yet. Europe is experiencing a second wave of outbreaks and “they did most everything” right. I guess Trump is the cause of that also.

      Now we have the governor of NY saying he isn’t going to allow a federally approved vaccine to be administered in his state until it is approved by his dept of health. I thought he was the main one crying that the federal government needed to take charge of covid and now he is doing the exact opposite.
      And we have Bill Gate “self appointed MD” saying we will need to put up with this until end of 2022 now. WTH?

  4. Great lunch place. Always enjoyed the food there and the people were great. I would take customers there. Sorry the government of Marion County and the state of Indiana continue to destroy businesses.

  5. I’ve known the Sahm’s my whole life, and if they can’t make it, then it’s really tough out there. I know it’s easy to blame the mayor or Governor, but really we are the only country out there that doesn’t have a comprehensive plan to combat this pandemic. Remember that when you vote in November. Our national leadership is a failure. I’ll continue my support of local establishments like Sahms as long as I can.

    1. Love the Sahm’s tavern, and sick of hearing how everything is Trump’s fault. I guess he is to blame for the increase in cases in Europe also? Guess their leaders over there aren’t so good either?

      The thing is that China probably still has cases and had 100x the cases but do you honestly think they reported their true numbers. Only in the US do you see the media and people actively pushing for the downfall of the US. Unbelieveable.

    2. Rhea, the media doesn’t have to do anything to contribute to the downfall of America. Trump doesn’t need the help. Soon, he will be but a bad chapter in American history.

  6. “We just couldn’t work out a plan with our landlord for a successful outcome”….. sadly, that is probably the case with most businesses/locations that close as a result of the pandemic. Seems landlords would rather have empty space than a loyal tenant. I suppose they’ve figured out how to get tax breaks from empty space….? Too bad landlords don’t work with tenants instead of against them during all this…..

    1. This is a naive attitude toward how leasing arrangements work. If a tenant is in arrears, whether or not it is “loyal” becomes a moot point. If the landlords cannot work an arrangement with the banks for which most of them still have a mortgage, they will still face their own debt obligations. It is understandable that they would actively seek no tenant (as a precursor to finding a lease with a successful one) rather than continue with an long-standing but unsuccessful one who cannot consistently pay rent.

      In your defense, the taxation structure for commercial property owners does allow them to write off some of their obligations if their property can be assessed for less, which is nearly always the case if it has high vacancies. IOW, commercial property owners pay more taxes when their properties are close to 100% leased (and thus have a higher assessed value) than when they are 25% leased. This embedded flaw in tax policy has been a problem especially in high-cost cities for quite some time, where owners of properties in luxe districts like Manhattan’s Upper West Side or San Francisco’s Union Square have decided to keep their retail spaces vacant in the hopes of securing a safe, nationally recognized chain, rather than signing leases with less stable mom-and-pops. Because it isn’t worth the tax obligation to fill the vacancy with an appealing if more volatile local tenant. As a result, even before the pandemic, posh districts were suffering yawning vacancies. It appears now that they’re even worse.

  7. Thank the President for telling people they don’t have to wear masks or self distance. Don’t forget most people are still working at home. I was at a downtown parking lot on Illinois and barely saw 5 cars in the huge lot.

    1. Well Carol explain what the problem is in Europe and parts of Asia that are experiencing a second wave of outbreaks and their government did everything right.

    1. Nah, the virus wouldn’t have magically disappeared even with a full lockdown. There would still be plenty of elderly, frail and obese people whom would eventually get it in the future with or without a lockdown.

  8. Rhea,

    Second wave in Asia and Europe? We’re on out third wave in the US, and never came down nearly enough in the interludes. No other major developed country has half the case load we have. UK, one of the poorer performing countries in Europe has less than a third the cases per capita as the US. That’s 660 case per 100k population in the UK versus 2194 per 100k in the US, as of yesterday. Check the facts. US leads the pack by miles in a very bad way due to horrible leadership and failure to properly use the world’s best tools that were entrusted to our buffoon in chief.

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