ST. GEORGE — There is a saying in the restaurant industry that a new eatery has one year to succeed or fail. 

Sign in window of Flake Pie Co. announcing its closure, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The proof of that can be found right now on one stretch of St. George Boulevard. Several restaurants that have opened in the last year have either changed names, ownership or closed entirely.

The signs have come down on ROCTACO and Flake Pie Co at 471 E. St. George Blvd. as they have both closed after about 19 months of business.

What had been an attempt to open a soda shop called Thirst “Powered by Wetzel’s Pretzels” about two blocks to the east in July 2022 has been abandoned and switched to strictly a Wetzel’s Pretzels location, with less emphasis on neon and sodas.

Turmeric Indian Grill, known for it’s “fast” versions of korma and masala in burritos and fries has closed its St. George Boulevard location after three years in favor of just sustaining a presence in Washington City. A sit-down Indian restaurant under different owners is opening in the same 815 E St George Blvd. location.

An attempt to revive Larsen’s Frostop closed in July, with little progress being seen to open the restaurant that had been expected to open on the site by the end of the year.

Elsewhere in St. George, an attempt to bring California’s Crack Shack restaurant to Southern Utah didn’t last six months before closing. It’s an urban legend that 90% of new restaurants fail in their first year. Researchers says the number is closer to 30%.

According to the National Restaurant Association and Cornell University, one in three new restaurants will fail in their first year. Of those that survive, 70% will be gone within five years.

The good news for the eateries that don’t necessarily have a franchise name or golden arches is that according to the same study, 90% of the restaurants that make it past five years manage to survive 10 years or more. 

Site of the former ROCTACO with its sign removed, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

But in St. George, at least, those survivors won’t include ROCTACO or Crack Shack.

Signs on the windows of both ROCTACO and its sister eatery Flake note that the two are going to just concentrate on their Northern Utah locations.

We regret to inform you that we have made the difficult decision to close our ROCTACO St. George location,” the sign reads. The ROCTACO sign says it will remain open in Salt Lake City while Flake notes it is still open in South Jordan.

The location both places occupied on St. George Boulevard has been called “cursed” by some locals as far as failed restaurants are concerned — all the way back from its time as a Pizza Hut to when it was Even Stevens Sandwiches.

Nearby at what was Thirst, the “Have a Happy Day” neon sign has been removed, as have any other Thirst signage in favor of Wetzel’s Pretzels signage. The menu still has some of the mixed soda offerings that Thirst had but is now more of a menu one would find at a Wetzel’s franchise. 

When opened in July 2022, the co-owner of Thirst had told St. George News it was aiming to be a dirty soda alternative to Swig and partnered with Wetzel’s in St. George.

Thirst representatives did not respond to St. George News and it is unclear if the overall ownership of the site has changed. Thirst continues to run five locations in Northern Utah.

File photo of a neon sign at Thirst Drinks, St. George, Utah, Dec. 2, 2022 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

One location that is seeing an ownership change is where Tumeric was on St. George Boulevard. While Tumeric will continue at its Washington City location, a different Indian food eatery is moving in at its old St. George location.

Maharaja Indian Cuisine will be more of a formal sit-down Indian restaurant and compete with Red Fort and Bombay Cafe in a growing cuisine genre in St. George. 

A manager for Maharaja told St. George News the restaurant hasn’t set an opening date but feels there’s more room for Indian food in St. George.

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