The Martini Ranch, aka Hy's Steakhouse,* was once the bastion of mandarins and politicians, a place where nobody blinked over a $300 luncheon bill. Soon, it will be a Walmart, or a Baby Gap.
The chattering class has spent the last week pondering its demise. All the networks have been busy interviewing the last Hill journalists still with a pulse in this city, wondering what it all means. How could a stuffy dark place with absolutely no ambience, with a menu that offers no hint of leafy greens, possibly go down?
A lot of the talking heads are offering such opinions as the culture has changed and journalists and politicians don't drink the way they used to. Some of them are actually blaming poor old Jim Flaherty who presumably kept the place going on his tab alone. Alas, Jim swims with the fishes, and no longer eats cow on a plate.
Why did Hy's fail? I'll tell you why.
The real reason for the fall of Hy's and other high priced venues in Ottawa is simple.
Blame it on the demise of the government expense account.
It wasn't long ago when you could go into any posh restaurant in town and see a gaggle of deputy ministers ordering several $70 bottles of wine in one go, at lunch. They'd be sitting with their minions, or better yet, lobbyists who sometimes offered to pick up the tab. After the sponsorship scandal, the rules changed and a lot of these government suits lost their portable taxpayer-funded ATMs. And a lot of lobbyists and Don Drapers either got real jobs, or went broke.
Many of them stopped going to the expensive places and started to go to the Blue Gardenia (which has a salad the size of Caesar's Palace for only $6).
You see many politicos, journalists, mandarins, and other soothesayers make big bucks but they are also over-extended thanks to their purchase of luxury cottages, boats, and golf memberships, while others are sitting at home under house arrest for forgetting to declare millions in income. Still others are over-burdened by child support payments to several wives who were angered when they were tossed aside for executive assistants.
Without the big expense account, most of these Masters of the Universe are hot messes who can now barely afford their bus passes since the recent increase.
Sure, there was always still a bit of a crowd at the Martini Ranch, but by the looks of the guys being interviewed yesterday, they are a pretty grey group comprised mainly of male journalists in denial, who are still hitting on 20-year-olds.
Most of them are in serious need of fibre, something that Hy's has not ever offered.
I'd hate to be their colorectal doctors.
Anyway, it's gone. Good riddance.
It will do the stragglers a bit of good to step out into the light, and start getting a life.
And drink water instead of Scotch and $15 a glass wine, and eat a salad once in a while.
*(With apologies to the Hy's staff who are excellent. Sorry you had to lose your jobs.)