Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The Rosebud American Kitchen in Somerville’s Davis Square on March 4, 2017. (Photo: iluvgadgets via Flickr)

News of the historic Rosebud American Kitchen closing in Somerville’s Davis Square after brunch on Sunday is suddenly bringing in the kind of crowds that could help keep the restaurant open – but the new owners are intent on closing, according to owner and investor Koushik “Babu” Koganti.

It’s intended to be temporary as the diner is retooled – another in a series of renewals for a diner car installed in 1941 that saw its last major turnover less than a decade ago.

Koganti’s Bindas Concepts bought the diner at 381 Summer St. in June for $800,000 after six-month negotiations with the Alpine Restaurant Group, Koganti said. Alpine is focused on expanding its Painted Burro Mexican restaurants, including to Cambridge’s Harvard Square, and also owns the Posto Italian restaurant in Davis. Koganti’s group runs Madras Dosa, which is in Boston’s Seaport and recently also opened in Harvard Square.

In a post on social media Sunday, Rosebud’s owners announced – crediting “the anonymous individual who took it upon themselves to share the information, relieving us of that responsibility” – that it would close and reopen with the introduction of some Indian dishes in addition to the diner’s classic American brunch fare.

The length of the closing isn’t known. “It’s probably going to be a very short time,” Koganti said Monday by phone. “We want to do everything in our power to keep the Rosebud alive.”

“We just want to take a break, reevaluate our business – our vendors, our hours and what we can do – and introduce some classics and some global dishes to the menu,” Koganti said. “We want to have an Indian twist to American cuisine, but we still want to continue the brunch fare, which is very popular.”

Koganti said the owners have “already told the staff they can reapply” for their jobs. “We want to see how many people we really need for our hours. We’re running too many shifts,” he said.

Although there’s been a surge in business in the past few days since news leaked of the closing, the jump in “people coming to support the staff” doesn’t seem sustainable to Koganti under the Rosebud’s current approach.

“We never want to close the Rosebud. We just want to change the concept – introduce things to the menu, update the bar program, see what else we can do, like add music,” Koganti said. But before the emergency surge in business, “the last two months were a disaster, and I think that was the case even before [under Alpine], because of heavy payroll and food costs being very high.”

Rosebud workers have been speaking out on social media about the shock of the Bindas Concepts plan and the layoffs. “It has been definitely a wild few days here,” said one worker Monday who asked to speak anonymously. “Things with ownership are not great right now.”

During the uncertainty of a prolonged sales process between Alpine and Bindas, staff hung on and resisted offers from other restaurants, the worker said. “We all declined in order to stay on and be part of the new project.”

It was a “famously slow summer across the industry and in Davis Square in particular,” the worker said, and during that time Bindas made substantial investments in the space – a combined financial punch that is being presented to staff as a reason for closing at what is “paradoxically, the busy season of back-to-school and the holidays,” the worker said. “It would make much more sense for them to close in January or February – they would not see nearly as many losses and staff would be able to find new positions over the course of the next three months. And people in the community would be able to enjoy the Rosebud for a bit longer.”

Another reason being given to staff is the need to make repairs, including to the roof and air conditioning. Neither seems a justification to staff as a reason to close indefinitely, the worker said.

Staff were told Thursday of the closing, and they made shocked reveals of the plan to the public.

“Staff are understandably really upset,” the worker said, “Unfortunately, all of this is extremely common. Lots of us have had the experience of showing up to your restaurant job one day and the doors are locked and there’s a sign that says ‘closed forever.’ Compared to that, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to have our regulars come in and support us as we anticipate this major change.”

Still “it was conveyed to us that no amount of public response will change their intention to close Oct. 1,” the worker said.

Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar, 381 Summer St., Davis Square, Somerville