Ruth’s Chris moving toward July opening as city issues liquor, common victualer licenses

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By Kim Ring

WORCESTER — A much-anticipated steakhouse is one step closer to opening in downtown after city License Commissioners approved related licenses including one for outdoor seating in the plaza at Mercantile Center.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House announced in 2019 that it would open an 8,200-square-foot restaurant with seating for nearly 300, indoors and out.

The opening was planned for fall of 2020 but was delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The steakhouse had signed a 10-year-lease in mid-2019 and considered pulling out during the pandemic, Charles “Chip” Norton, president and owner of Front Street Associates and managing director of the Mercantile Center, said last year.

They then agreed to hold off on leaving the deal and reset their planned opening date to later this year.

Norton said he’s excited about the opening, which he has been told will happen in July.

A representative from Ruth’s Chris told city License Commission members that the restaurant will be open evenings only and that there is no plan for lunch service.

The restaurant includes a private dining room for about 40 patrons along with a larger dining room and seating for 40 on the patio outside.

Action on an entertainment license for the eatery was held until June 2 due to a late application, commission staff said.

The restaurant, an international chain, started in 1967 in New Orleans when Ruth
Fertel mortgaged her home to buy a small operation called Chris Steak House, according to the company’s website.

After a fire in 1976, Fertel was forced to relocate and couldn’t take the restaurant name when she did. She simply added her own name and continued on, running Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

She later sold the company, which has restaurants in 21 countries and is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol RUTH. Three Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses are located in eastern Massachusetts.

The restaurant is across the plaza from the recently opened The Mercantile, which features a rooftop bar overlooking the plaza.

Norton said that pre-pandemic plans for enlivening the plaza at Mercantile Center are coming to fruition with the opening of a beer garden at the site, as well.