A Dayton restaurant that earned a cult-like following for its gourmet hot dogs as a food truck is the latest bricks-and-mortar eatery to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is just a huge punch in the gut,” David VanArtsdalen said of shutting down Zombie Dogz, his restaurant at 1200 Brown St. “I feel like I let a ton of people down. I feel terrible. This is not what I want to do, but I can’t go on. I can't do it.”
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The Zombie Dogz food truck will continue to operate, VanArtsdalen said.
“That’s what made us. That’s what people fell in love with,” he said. “We are closing this, but we are not done for good.”
The food truck has consistently won first or second place in Dayton.com's Best of Dayton food truck and "best hot dog" categories.
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The restaurant employed 13 people. About five employees will be needed for the food truck, VanArtsdalen said.
Most of the events the truck was expected to serve have been canceled, so VanArtsdalen said it is up in the air when that segment of the business will resume.
In an earlier message posted to the Zombie Dogz Facebook page, VanArtsdalen said that the business had struggled for about a year.
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Being shut down due to the coronavirus made the situation worse.
VanArtsdalen told this news organization that the business is nearly three months behind in rent.
“We don’t have any other option” than to close, he said.
“We didn’t get any assistance from anybody. We never had a business loan. It was all out-of-pocket.”
Miller Valentine Group Realty Services, the owner of University Place, agreed to terminate the business’ lease after VanArtsdalen said he told representatives he was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.
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The Zombie Dogz food truck launched about four years before the restaurant and was one of the first to transition to a storefront. “It is terrible,'' he said, adding he will avoid social media because he cannot bear to read the comments. “This is something that has been blood, sweat and tears eight years as a business, and four years as a restaurant.”
Local residents expressed sorrow that the restaurant is closed.
“I’ve loved you guys for years and (have) been following you since the early days of the truck. I always tried to come down and support the restaurant as well,” one Facebook commenter wrote. “I’m sorry to see that go, but I guess I can look forward to chasing down the truck on weekends again. No matter what, Zombie Dogz in any form will always be one of my favorite parts of our little city. Good luck to you guys; I will see you soon.”
The business posted the following message to its fans on Facebook:
Good morning everybody. First and foremost we hope that everyone is staying healthy and handling life the best they can right now.
The past year or so have been trying for us as a restaurant. Sales have been down and we’ve been barely getting by every month. Unfortunately having to shut down for 2 months only made matters worse. So with a very heavy heart we will be shutting the restaurant down permanently.
We will start back with the food truck when we can do so safely. Most of the festivals have already been cancelled for the year. So we will be doing what we can this summer and fall to get out there as much as possible. We will be keeping everyone updated when we know exactly when the truck will start back up again.
We want to thank everyone of you for years of constant support and love. Thank you for everything you have always done for us. We love you all and we can’t wait to get out there and see you at the food truck.