Kuluck Persian Restaurant, in Danger of Closing, Saved By Community

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It's become a sad fact of reality in the restaurant scene: businesses are closing every day, and by the dour way in which the best and brightest restaurateurs are talking, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight.

That makes what happened last week at Tamarac's Kuluck Persian Restaurant and Lounge that much more special. News came from Chowhound over the weekend that Kuluck held a fundraiser last Saturday night to save the restaurant. And the community responded: the last ditch effort worked.

"We were in trouble," says Kuluck's co-owner, Ali Shirdel. "So what we did is put the word out in the Persian community, and held a fundraiser last Saturday. We had enough contributions to renew our contract and be able to hang on."

Kuluck was dangerously close to going under. The restaurant, which operates as a sort of nightclub for the Persian community on Friday and Saturday nights, had been put on credit freeze in the wake of the recession. With a number of vital licenses as well as its lease coming up, Kuluck simply did not have the funds to cover the renewals.

"In the past year to two years, most small businesses went on credit freeze," says Shirdel, who runs the restaurant with his brother, Hamid. "Our credit was automatically dropped, and that put us in a very tough situation. We had to deal with our day to day costs with only cash. And for a year, we did that. But we weren't going to be able to survive the next one."

Luckily, analysts are just this month seeing the credit freeze begin to thaw. But not in time to save Kuluck. The Shirdels had decided that Saturday night's party was to be their last, a going away gathering for the community that supported them for three years. Ali had planned to say goodbye to their loyal patrons with a huge celebration. The restaurant sent an e-mail out to customers informing them of the bad news. And then, serendipity happened.

"Once we started talking to a few people and letting them know, they said 'you're not going to do this. You owe it to the community to stay in business,'" recalls Shirdel. "We were getting crazy responses, so we decided we had nothing to lose. And people really came through."

Shirdel declined to say how much cash was raised, but did say that through the fundraiser, and sales of gift cards, the restaurant was able to renew all of its licenses as well as purchase some additional advertising. According to Shirdel, the contributions are enough to keep the licensces intact for the next three years. 

The charity bestowed upon Kuluck was uncommon; a show of support in a time where little exists. For people of Persian descent living in South Florida, it was one, if not the only place where they could gather and celebrate Iranian culture.

When New Times first reviewed Kuluck in 2007, we praised it for its honest ambiance. Rather than manufacturing Iranian culture through elaborate decorations, the restaurant chose a modern motif, with cool blue lighting and a big dance floor that packed up with families dancing to Middle Eastern dance music on the weekends. In 2008, we called Kuluck the Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in Broward and Palm Beach, citing its stylish decor and lively entertainment as premier draws.

The restaurant has long provided a safe haven for members of South Florida's Persian community. Now, that same community has protected the restaurant.   

"Their support showed that they didn't want us going anywhere," says Shirdel. "It really means a lot."
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