The reason the restaurant has to close is because there are plans to get rid of the entire physical shopping plaza for a mixed-use development. “The neighborhood we’ve called home is undergoing significant changes, driven by gentrification,” owner John Lee writes in the Instagram announcement post. “Despite our best efforts, we were unable to come to an agreement that would allow us to continue serving you in this location. The decision to close was not easy, and it’s disheartening to see the place we’ve cherished being transformed in a way that doesn’t align with our vision.”
Lee tells Eater that the restaurant’s lease actually ended in September because of the impending demolition, but that he had a month-to-month lease since then. But then he was notified of the end-of-year deadline in early December.
Lee also tells Eater that the restaurant has been struggling because of external and internal issues since the summer. There was the hot weather, a variety of broken equipment, general inflation leading to higher costs, and rent increases. “We had to make a difficult decision to close suddenly and cut our losses before the new year,” he writes.
While Lee notes that people and businesses have reached out to him about potential collaborations, he plans on taking a pause.
Seoulju serves up an array of Korean dishes, such as the Korean fried chicken, hot pots, rice cakes, bulgogi, and kimchi pancakes. Drinks included house-made soju in a variety of flavors like passionfruit and mango,
The restaurant originally opened as College Roadhouse in 2015 by Lee’s mother and other partners, with food, drinks, and karaoke. He had started managing the restaurant in 2018, and then took over in 2019 when the last partner left the business. His mother stayed on as the chef. That’s when he changed the name to Seoulju with more of an emphasis on Korean food and drinks. He had expanded with a takeout/delivery location in a ghost kitchen hub in 2020, but closed it after four months.
The restaurant will host a farewell New Year’s Eve party on its last day of service, with details to come later. The post also notes that they’re looking for new jobs for their staff too.
Update, December 11: This article, originally published on December 8, has been updated with information from Seoulju owner John Lee.