My viewpoint which is probably wrong on a few points.
Downtown is dying because of landlords. We originally signed our lease for our little spot on Central in 2012. Our rent at the time was about $1300 a month. After 10 years our lease was up for renewal and the offer was around $2900 a month. Its just not a feasible number as we have seen foot traffic slow down (not to mention full rent was required during Covid so our billionaire landlords can keep their stock price up) and had to deal with a lot of crime and safety issues. Finding staff that wanted to work there at night was tricky and when the renewal came in at that price we had an easy decision. Would we have stayed if the rent was flat or lowered? Yeah probably but glad we didn't. Its now still sitting empty 10 months later so great math by our landlord. They loved to tell us there was a line of people wanting the spot but guess not.
Next month we're opening our bar/restaurant in Ivanhoe and I could not be more bullish on an area. Ivanhoe is dense and walkable (mostly) and has a lot of great spots to eat/drink/shop. Downtown just doesn't have any of that anymore. I do think food costs are realllllly hard right now but if you know what you are doing and keep your menu simple and straight you don't need to raise prices to where I'm seeing them now. The biggest issue is still rent for every operator and until a correction happens, which I don't see coming, we're going to see a lot more closures around town.
Its just sad because I was on the Project DTO board and enjoyed the process and even felt some of the meetings were good. The city refusing to provide incentives outside the CRA is going to be bad long term. I don't see any of these new spots trying to open on Church staying around long so the city is pouring money into zombie businesses that already got bit before they even open. Downtown is 5-10 years away from a comeback and with Tampa/St Pete lapping us I'm not even sure it comes back in that timeframe. I've seen no big company make a move into the general core in a long time and with the shift away from offices its may not come. We may see a few people with high incomes that are working from home move here for the weather or whatever but I think we just need to get comfortable with the idea that downtown is dead but the surrounding areas are thriving.