Join UrbanCincy in Showing Your Love for Mahogany’s This Week

The restaurant and bar industry is a tough one. The vast majority of them fail, and many come and go in Cincinnati’s center city every year. One of those businesses that has been struggling, as has been well publicized by the local media, is Mahogany’s.

Mahogany’s got its start in Hamilton in 2010, but relocated its southern-style cuisine restaurant to The Banks in 2012. One of the things that makes Mahogany’s unique is that it is one of the few locally owned and operated establishments in the massive riverfront development’s first phase. Mahogany’s is also the only African American-owned business at The Banks.


After receiving financial aid from the City of Cincinnati to build out their space, owners have struggled to make payments on their rent and repayment of those loans. They have until Tuesday, April 1 to make a $25,000 payment or be evicted.

The owners have publicly discussed their struggles and, according to their landlord, have been making good faith efforts to repay their debts. Mahogany’s is a terrific establishment and it is worthy of our business, and worthy of rallying together to save.

As a result, we would like to encourage our readers to patronize Mahogany’s this week in order to help boost sales and support the owners in their effort to make the $25,000 payment. If you would like to meet with some of our team members, and others from Cincinnati’s urbanist community, then please join us on Thursday, March 27. We’ll be there for dinner and drinks.

But the most important thing is not us. It’s about supporting a great local business that many out-of-towners are exposed to during baseball and football season. So if you cannot join us on Thursday, please go another day or evening this week.

After a brutal winter that has been tough on everyone, and right before the start of the baseball season, it would be a real tragedy to see Mahogany’s evicted. So please show your #MahoganysLove this week.

We recommend trying the ribs or the chicken wing dinner. Or if you are vegetarian, they also have a very good vegetarian plate that you can build yourself. Mahogany’s also has a full bar and offers happy hour specials daily from 4pm to 7pm. So be sure to come both hungry and thirsty. See you Thursday!

  • 2crows

    Apparently given too many chances for the wrong reason…

    • I’m not sure the troubles the owners of Mahogany’s have faced are all that different from what many small business owners encounter. It’s tough running your own small business, but I’m glad people stick their necks out there and do it.

  • As John points out, lots of restaurants struggle or disappear, but few of them receive the kind of criticism that Mahogany’s has been given. I haven’t heard any local media outlet criticize the Montgomery Inn Boathouse for having their rent subsidized by the city. I’ve heard no criticism of Jeff Ruby, who has had two failed concepts (Bootsy’s, Walnut Street Grill) near the Aronoff Center and has had his barge break free and float down the Ohio River twice. Countless other restaurants have received loans or incentives from governmental entities. Any yet only Mahogany’s is getting constant criticism from the local media.

    • EDG

      That’s the Enquirer way, start unfair criticism and run with it.

    • The owners of Mahogany’s had been celebrated for their restaurant and business success regionally while located in Hamilton. Local leaders were looking for a local business to come in and add some variety the the host of national chains that had leased space at The Banks. Mahogany’s at The Banks was seen as a critical flagship operation of sorts for locally and minority-owned businesses.

      As a result, the success or failure of Mahogany’s at The Banks reflects not only on the owners, but also upon everyone one of us as a city and region.

    • EDG

      I don’t view Mahogany’s as a flagship local restaurant.

  • xclone25x

    Pass. They’re not being singled out because of subsidies that others also receive, but instead because they’re behind on rent, loan payments, vendor payments and every possible tax known to man that they owe. I’ll give credit to anyone willing to take the risk of being a small business owner, but her business being singled out is rightfully deserved.

    • There are loads of other businesses that have struggled, missed loan payments, and got behind on rent. However they have not been subject to the non-stop criticism that Mahogany’s has had. This bad PR has certainly made people that may have wandered into Mahogany’s while visiting The Banks think twice and go elsewhere. The hatred that has been directed towards Mahogany’s has not been deserved.

  • zschmiez

    While Mahogany’s is getting the brunt share, has it also been noted that:
    1) something like 90% of restaurants fail, and Mahogany’s shouldn’t be any different?
    2) Moving from Hamilton to the Banks is just that: moving from a much smaller town and feel to a big metro city; competition and market are going to be different. judging by Google Maps M’s didnt have, well, any neighborly competition for food/drink at their old location.

    And you bring up bad PR: good food and atmosphere are the #1 PR movers for a restaurant/bar. If you fall short in those areas I don’t know if anyone can help you. Its no different for ANY restaurant/bar in Cincy. If they had awesome food and service (Mont. Inn since it was brought up) the rest is overlooked.

  • EDG

    Wine Guy and Johnny Rockets also don’t seem to be doing very well. If there are too many or not the right restaurants, you can’t just keep propping that up. A year is enough time to know if a restaurant is a success or not.

    • I would suspect that most are struggling because The Banks has failed (so far) to become a year-round 24/7 destination. The restaurants are going to have a hard time surviving if they only get major business during events when there are thousands of visitors at The Banks.

      Apparently many of the people who rent apartments there are not year-round residents. If they can address that issue, and get the hotel/office building/townhomes started, that will really help. The streetcar can only help as well. As an OTR resident, The Banks is not really a convenient place for me to walk, drive, or take the bus, but the streetcar will drop me off right there.

    • Right. I understand that they may be having some difficulty developing the office tower or hotel in phase one, but what about phase two? Why has that taken so long to get started? Why haven’t the developers built the townhomes along the event lawn at Smale Riverfront Park?

      Also, I can understand why people living at The Banks wouldn’t stay around at just those businesses. The leasing agents have gone almost exclusively for themed bars and restaurants. In most cases you’re not looking to go to those on an average night. There’s no cafe, no deli, no dry cleaner…nothing of use to the residents living there.

      I think this shows that the idea of building a lifestyle center development in the heart of a downtown doesn’t work. Hopefully the developers adjust their approach in the next several phases so that this becomes a more established neighborhood. The businesses can’t solely rely on 91 Reds/Bengals games a year.

    • Matt Jacob

      “lifestyle center development in the heart of a downtown” that’s the best description that I’ve heard for the Banks yet, but I’m not sure we can say that it doesn’t work just yet since it’s got a ways to go before it’s fully built out.

      It would be nice to know what’s holding the progress up though.

      Also can they at least use the empty pad sites for something productive? Open up the fences and let people tailgate or have outdoor stages or a city flea or something please? This neighborhood is only programed with activities 91 days of the year and is dead the other 274 (maybe not every one, but you get the idea). This development might as well be in suburbia surrounded by fields, instead of a part of the urban core, because it’s still kind of detached from the energy of the city the other days of the year. It makes a lot of sense that even residents would leave this area and these businesses behind for say Fountain Square or other parts of downtown.

    • We need more retailers similar to the ones shown in the original renderings… you know, “Barnes & Others”, “Bugo Hoss”, “Chipelto”, “Earl of Sussex Pub and Bistro”…

    • EDG

      Other than the standalone Yard House and Morelein, I think the banks has already lost some of its appeal or newness to the Vine St restaurants.

    • zschmiez

      I think they are serving two different audiences though. For whatever reason the Banks tenants (or maybe by force of hand by the property managers) go after these gigantic spaces that seat 150 + sidewaik + bar, etc. Bakersfield fits 50 maybe, same with A Tavola, Senate. Its just easier to manage a smaller operation.

      Graille does alright, but their menu is small, and they focus on cheap beer. Tin Roof much the same, plus live music. Plus Tin Roof has a smaller footprint.

      Someone on UrbCin debated a few years back that the spaces available for lease were far too big for most of the desired lifestyle stores – DairyMart, Starbucks, etc. Orange Leaf either lucked out or worked something out with Ruths Chris.

    • thebillshark

      The Banks developers seem to be having a hard time finding a tenant for the office portion. Meanwhile residential demand downtown is extremely high. Why don’t they scrap the office portion of the project in favor of more residential?

  • Matt Jacob

    I’ve heard some really bad reviews of the service and food there, which has kept me away. Word of mouth tends to get it right more often than not in my experience. Wish I could make it to see for myself, but I’ve got other plans already. Can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks.

    They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Despite their troubles financially, everyone in the city knows their name now for free. I can’t think of a better help for a new small business starting out, but if your product isn’t up to par it doesn’t matter.

    Can we get one of those restaurant take-over shows to come in and fix their food and management? I can’t think of a better place to do it and also garner some national attention for the Banks.

    • I think people oversell the impact of the Reds and Bengals games. Yes they create a lot of business just before and after their game days (a grand total of 81 Reds games and 10 Bengals games). But what about lunch throughout the week? What about lunch and dinner on non-game days?

      The Reds and Bengals are great to have bringing people to those establishments, but the rest of The Banks needs to be built out for it to really be successful. Right now it’s an island only really appealing on game days or other special events. And to be honest, 91 days out of the year where you’re getting a sales boost for a few hours probably isn’t enough. Unless you are solely a bar, but still maybe not.

    • Matt Jacob

      They still give exposure to the business that should translate into more lunch and off-game days if the product is good enough. For example if you came down for a Reds game and had dinner beforehand at the Moerlein Lager House and had a good experience, which they make it easy to do with good food, beer, services, and atmosphere, then you’re more likely to return or think about going even when there isn’t a game.

      The hardest thing is getting a new customer in the door the first time to try it, which the 91 games a year create that opportunity very well. Retaining potential custumers (and thereby spreading the good word to others) comes down to the product, which then ensures a sustainable business over the long haul as it gets into sort of a viruous cycle. If the product isn’t up to snuff or falls apart over time, the cycle starts to work in reverse pretty fast, which is why you see a lot of small businesses that once did well suddenly on dire straits or new ones failing pretty fast after opening.

      Anyone know how to get them on one of those shows? I think it’s actually a great idea that could recreate their image and give them a fresh start in many people’s eyes. It would also be great publicity for the city.

  • CollegeHill_45224

    Nice article.. The ribs with collard greens and macaroni and cheese for the sides, is off the chain.

  • charles ross

    Cincinnati’s recent development boom has produced too many new restaurants all over the place. Northern KY has casualties too. Seriously – how many fancy new places can all open within 1 year in Oakley, OTR, the Banks, Northside, U-heights, Downtown, the Cov, Newport and all stay in business? It’s been a feeding frenzy of late. I guess Restaurants are a glamour venture, as opposed to Grocery stores -the wait for a Clifton area grocery store drags on and on.

  • Mark Christol

    Tony Keith’s took some heat & that chain even has/had a website dedicated to sharing the hatred.

  • Jason

    This is what happens when gov’t subsidizes bad businesses…they had payment issues in Hamilton as well…they sell a type of food that’s not that popular amongst the patrons that attend the games (overpriced soul food that tastes bad, and has slow service). I ate there one time, the food I had was awful, the service was slow and of every meal I’ve had in The Banks, it was the most expensvive. Moerlein Lager House is locally owned (not a chain), didnt’ receive tax subsidies and loans from the city, and has had no problems whatsoever paying bills? Why…because they produce wonderful food that customer want, at fair prices, and great service.

  • FWIW, Mahogany’s made their $25,000 payment yesterday. I guess they need to make one more payment by April 11 to be all squared away with their landlord.