Published: Friday, December 22, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
By: Mark Fisher - Staff Writer
— The Dayton Mall area has been a dining destination for decades, and many of the restaurants in and around the mall have been serving their customers for quite a while. The Ohio 725 corridor east of the mall has seen its share of turnover and changes over the years, but the area at or behind the Dayton Mall has been comparatively stable — with some notable exceptions.
Here are a few of those exceptions.
1. Cena Brazilian Steakhouse
It’s hard to imagine a restaurant closing under more bizarre circumstances than Cena Brazilian Steakhouse did.
The restaurant figured prominently in a criminal case that ultimately sent its founder and owner, Eva Christian, to prison for a nine-year sentence. Christian has served more than five years of that prison sentence, although she is scheduled to appear in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in January 2018, and may have her sentenced reduced by a year at that hearing.
Cena’s unraveling started in earnest on Christmas Eve 2009, when Christian reported a vandalism incident and small fire at the restaurant. Investigators and prosecutors would later show that the damage to phones, computers, floors and furnishings was done by Christian herself, in an attempt to collect insurance money. That incident, along with a staged break-in at Christian’s home, prompted prosecutors to file five insurance fraud-related charges against the restaurant owner, and she was convicted in a jury trial and sentenced to prison.
Prior to her arrest, Christian emailed Cena’s customers lamenting the poor timing of the Christmas Eve fire and vandalism damage.
“It is devastating and disappointing to have to deal with this at this time, especially (because) this was the busiest time of the year for us. … I am just glad that nobody (was) hurt; it could have been worse.”
The restaurant did not reopen.
2. Osaka Sushi & Hibachi Buffet/Hazel Grille & Tavern/Max & Erma’s
The restaurant space behind the Dayton Mall at 8901 Kingsridge Drive housed Max & Erma’s for decades, and in its heyday, it was one of the most popular hangouts in the Dayton area. But Max & Erma’s pulled out in 2009. Hazel Grille & Tavern operated in the space for 15 months before shutting down in October 2014. Osaka opened in September 2015, utilizing a distinctive “sushi conveyor” as part of its service concept.
Osaka shut down in December 2016.
3. TGI Fridays
The TGI Fridays at 2022 Miamisburg-Centerville Road in Miami Twp. closed permanently on Sept. 6, two days after the Labor Day shutdown of the chain’s restaurant at 7777 Old Troy Pike (Ohio 202) in Huber Heights.
Among the chain’s Dayton-area restaurants, only the Beavercreek location near the Mall at Fairfield Commons remains open.
In both the Dayton Mall and Huber Heights cases, a spokeswoman for the Bistro Group — the Cincinnati-based franchise owner of TGI Fridays’ Dayton-area restaurants — said lease negotiations were the primary factor in the decision to shut down.
“A very difficult decision and a sad day for our company,” she said.
4. Ruby Tuesday
Ruby Tuesday had been a mainstay in the Dayton Mall for years before it shut down somewhat unexpectedly in January 2008.
A corporate spokeswoman offered no explanation for the closing, but did say that about half of its employees were able to transfer to other Ruby Tuesday locations in the Dayton area.