Howl at the Moon and Splitsville Luxury Lanes closes at The Banks

CINCINNATI -- Howl at the Moon and Splitsville Luxury Lanes closed its location at The Banks on Monday.

New Year's Eve was the bar's final night in operation. Tracy Schwegmann, a representative for The Banks, said no new tenants are lined up to fill the space.

It's the second business to fail in the same spot since The Banks opened about six years ago: Howl at the Moon/Splitsville was at 145 E. Second St., which formerly housed Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill.

The 16,000-square-foot bar and bowling alley opened in August 2016. For Howl at the Moon, it was a homecoming of sorts: The piano bar opened its first location at Covington Landing on the Ohio River in 1990. Like its Covington predecessor, the Banks location had live music and dueling pianos, in addition to the bowling lanes.

Howl at the Moon has 16 other locations in the United States. The Cincinnati location was removed from its website as of Tuesday.

Turnover has been a theme at The Banks over the past few years. Several bars and restaurants have come and gone, including Johnny Rockets, WG Kitchen & Bar, Mahogany's, Crave and Santo Graal.

 

Jennifer Shand, former senior research associate at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, previously told WCPO the closures are just a part of the “high-churn industry” that is the restaurant business, and that partially holds true for locations at The Banks.

But Shand said there may be an additional challenge for restaurant proprietors on The Banks.

“Perhaps they're not pulling in enough during the peak times during the baseball games and the other events that pull people down there,” Shand said, after Santo Graal closed.

The Banks is still without a master developer for its third phase, which remains stalled. Former developer Carter, in charge of luring new businesses, retail and residential units, was supposed to break ground in 2016. The company left that role this past July.

The impact of a delay like that can reverberate: Restaurant and bar operators project a certain number of workers and visitors to frequent their establishment, said Michael Jones, assistant professor of economics at UC.

"So any time a developer is behind on those projections, it affects a restaurant's profitability," Jones said.

Until last summer, it had been two years since the Joint Banks Steering Committee, a group of power players that guides decision-making on the project, had met.

In the last two years, public leaders have discussed several options -- a concert venue or a University of Cincinnati law school – for the next phase. Taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in public infrastructure at the riverfront development. But in a series of interviews, Cincinnati City Council members and county commissioners told WCPO they were in the dark about The Banks and its future. And private investment, at $280 million, is only about half of what was projected.

Mayor John Cranley, sworn in for his second term Tuesday, remained bullish on The Banks.

"I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. We've added thousands of jobs, and The Banks has got restaurants, that's just one of many great examples we're going to see a lot more," he said.

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This story contains prior reporting from WCPO's Brian Mains and Amanda Seitz.

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