Downtown Hamilton restaurant closes, space will reopen with a rebranding

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Published October 18, 2022 at 1:19 pm

Googling “Ray’s Food and Liquor” will now instead bring up “Union Chicken” these days.

The former, which opened its doors in Hamilton just shy of three years ago, closed last weekend. Reports indicate the operators, Open Concept Hospitality, will be renovating the space at 10 James St. N. for Union Chicken, a rotisserie-style chicken restaurant. It will be the third location for Union Chicken, along with a spot inside Union Station in Toronto and another at the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket.

Union Chicken serves sandwiches, platters, chicken wings, shareable snacks, and much more. Open Concept describes it as a place where “guests are welcome to sit right up at the open concept kitchen and watch the ‘spitmaster’ expertly prepare their birds for your enjoyment. More than just a rotisserie chicken joint, guests can also enjoy a selection of sandwiches, fried chicken to share, mouthwatering sides, and decadent desserts. Wash it all down with their selection of craft beers, local wines, and cocktails that play off traditional favourites.”

Ray’s was known for creative Southern eats such as fried chicken platters, smash burgers, shrimp po’ boy and, mac-and-cheese. The entire hospitality and restaurant industry, though, has been challenged by the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in food prices over the last year.

“It has been a great pleasure to be a part of this vibrant community,” a farewell social media post states. “Our team truly cherishes the many loyal guests who have become a part of our family. As one door closes another one opens! The team at Open Concept Hospitality has something exciting in the works.”

Local foodies commentators Steeltown Chowdown lamented the loss of an eatery downtown. While many residents of Hamilton are facing a higher cost of living, it warned that Ray’s closing is a sign of how tough the restaurant game has become during the now 2½-years-long pandemic.

“A good reputation and a loyal base isn’t enough any more. So don’t wait for a national day or local initiative,” Steeltown Chowdown wrote. “Just go because you love their food and it will brighten your day and mean a lot to their business.”

(Cover photo by Union Chicken.)

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