Junior’s Restaurant Owner Says “No We Are Not Closing!”
World-famous Junior’s Restaurant in Brooklyn’s building may be sold, but restaurant will never close, despite frantic rumors
A slice of the plain cheesecake, the most popular option at Junior's.
Don’t stock up on cheesecake just yet. Owner Alan Rosen has clarified with The Daily Meal that Junior’s Restaurant, the Brooklyn mainstay that is world-renowned for their decadent cheesecakes, will not be closing despite media rumors that have suggested otherwise. The building which has housed the restaurant for 63 years was listed for sale this Tuesday, but the restaurant is not part of any possible deal if one is made. Even if the building is sold, Rosen said that Junior’s will be integral to the plan, and that he “if a developer wants to get rid of Junior’s, we won’t make the deal.”
“We have, and we always will have a commitment to Brooklyn,” said Rosen. “I’m getting choked up thinking about it. There are people in my building that have known me since I was five years old. That restaurant is another child to me.”
Rosen told us that he is not doing this because business is suffering. Over the years, he has been approached to make a deal by several developers. If the building is sold, he said that the process could take up to two years to even finalize and draw up any necessary architectural plans. If the storefront is temporarily closed for construction, he will open a pop-up bakery nearby to accommodate customers.
“The cheesecake panic needs to stop,” said Rosen. “When we had our huge fire that devastated the store in 1992, people said Junior’s would never be the same again. But it’s exactly the same, and it will be here long after I’m gone.”
Restaurant owner says mask mandate would take pressure off local businesses
COLORADO SPRINGS — In the wake of a growing number of coronavirus cases across the state, Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman will introduce an emergency ordinance early next week, requiring people to wear face masks in public, with the possibility of penalties if violated. The ordinance still has to go through council work session, but News5 spoke with a local restaurant owner who said a mandate like that would take some pressure off of local businesses.
One of the owners of The Wild Goose Meeting House, Russ Ware, said they decided to ask customers to wear masks inside their restaurant around two weeks ago. Patrons must only wear a mask while moving about the restaurant, but can remove them when seated at a table.
Ware said they did so to make both guests and staff feel safer. "Really saw the trends in terms of mask wearing from our customers sort of come and go. Realized there were some customers that were uncomfortable with the amount of people that didn't have masks on. As a place that does draw people together, we feel like we have a responsibility to do everything we can," said Ware.
Even though Ware said the majority of customers are understanding, both he and his staff were surprised by the amount of aggressive criticism they have received. "Almost every day, we have some handful of people that come in and are very unhappy with us. Why are masks so contentious? I do not know the answer to that, I really don't," said Ware.
While outside of The Wild Goose Meeting House, News5 spoke with a woman who was heading in there. Alice Alesandro did not have a mask with her, but said she would put on a mask if given one upon entry, despite expressing deeper issues with the requirement. "It's just a violation of my rights, and I'm not going to breathe on anyone, I really do try to stay at a distance and I do think most viruses are picked up on surfaces," said Alesandro.
Dr. Leon Kelly, the El Paso County Coroner, has been working with El Paso County Public Health throughout the pandemic. He compared wearing a mask to things like brushing teeth or putting on a seat belt.
Dr. Kelly said we are trending in the wrong direction, and need significant alterations in citizen behavior to change it. He also mentioned that science changes as more information is collected, and health officials have now learned that wearing a mask is one of the most powerful weapons against the virus. "You want businesses to stay open? You want to go to your favorite restaurants? You want to support those small businesses, those friends and family who are running those stores, and providing for their families? The best way that you do that is stay home if you're sick, social distance, and wear your mask. It's really simple," said Dr. Kelly.
He also mentioned that widespread adoption of a few policies are what could help pull the community out of the rise in COVID-19 cases. "Why you would think that wearing a mask is somehow the downfall of your liberties, I do not know. But, we would love it if everybody could do their part to help us get through this thing," said Dr. Kelly.
Meanwhile, Ware said he has talked to other restaurant owners, who would be in support of a mask requirement in public. "Many of them have said to me, they would welcome more of a mandate, because then they would be able to say, 'hey, this wasn't our decision, this is a requirement,' and that way they're not on the hook to have to fight those battles with all the customers," said Ware.
Beef Burger in Greensboro ‘closed until further notice’ month after discrediting rumors of permanent closure
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The future of Beef Burger, a beloved restaurant in Greensboro, was once again called into question.
In April, a Facebook post began circulating online, claiming that the restaurant was closing permanently. Employees disproved the rumors by posting a handmade, cardboard sign on the front window of the business saying, “Don’t believe Facebook.”
They told FOX8 there is no plan to close.
Now, the restaurant’s sign has a different message: “Beef Burger will be closed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
It’s unclear how long the restaurant may be closed or exactly what prompted the closure. We do know that the owner, Ralph Havis, is hospitalized.
“There’s a lot of love there for Ralph, as you could tell from everybody who’s here today,” said Annya Roland, a former employee of Beef Burger who stepped in to help staff back in April. “You can see how much Ralph is really loved.”
After the rumors began swirling in April, people stood in the hot sun to get what they had originally thought was one last meal.
“It’s a legendary place. We heard it was their last day and that they were closing down,” Jesse Einhorn said.
“I’ve been eating here 50-plus years. It’s a landmark with a great hamburger,” Jerry Mills said.
People later found out they reacted to rumors. The Facebook post was shared over 3,000 times before Dana Foy took it down. Foy told FOX8 she shared the news based on hearsay.
“This was a learning lesson. I just kind of got information and ran with it,” she said. “Then I guess, today, we’re finding out it’s going to be a little different.”
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"We'd unwrap the Saran Wrap and sit at that table over there and taste," says Rosen. "The result should be as if you're sitting here in our restaurant and that's the result you get. Because we triple tested it in a home kitchen, it works."
Allen and Rosen also collaborated on the special "Junior's Way" tip boxes.
"There are so many things we do that are old-schooled so Beth came up with these sidebars on how they do it at Junior's and the reason why," says Rosen. "There's a method to our madness, whether it's a water bath for our cheesecake or making these crepes from scratch every day."
Rosen's food philosophy is simple: using "the best ingredients in the best way possible."
“No, we’re not going to close,” says Highspire restaurant owner about decision to defy Gov. Wolf’s dine-in order
HIGHSPIRE, Pa. (WHTM) — Sixteen Midstate restaurants were named by the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday as businesses that continue to operate dine-in services, despite being closed down by Gov. Tom Wolf’s order that went into effect on Dec. 12.
Cafe 230 in Highspire was on the previous week’s version of that list after they faced a crossroads: follow the order and potentially lose money or defy it, possibly landing them in a legal battle with the state.
Co-owner Shelby Reitz said they made their decision after feeling like they never had one at all.
“It was not the time to do this to Pennsylvanians across the board,” Reitz said.
The Department of Agriculture visited Cafe 230 days after the Governor’s order banning dine-in services on Dec. 14.
“I said, ‘no, we’re not gonna close down dine-in. So, they issued us a closure order,” Reitz said.
The restaurant continued dine-in until Dec. 24.
“This had no political stance whatsoever. This was just a, ‘this is what we need to do for our family and our business,” Reitz said.
They relented after Christmas and are now sticking to take-out, which cleared their name from the state’s list.
“Financially, it made more sense to just suck it up for these four or five days that we’re open than to go spend thousands of dollars to go to court and fight for something that we really shouldn’t even have to fight for as Americans,” Reitz said.
That fight feels more like a sucker-punch for Reitz. Businesses had options for PPP loans during the first shutdown.
“It’s not fair because there isn’t any financial aid, and he was closing us off two weeks before Christmas,” Reitz said.
The Department of Agriculture told us once restaurants comply with the order, they can reopen, but Reitz warns, customers on both sides of the political fence are fed up.
“When they’re trying to shut down a business, it’s not just hurting the business owners themselves, it’s hurting the patrons, as well,” Reitz said.
Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
From the prep line to the DEW Line
In Winnipeg, Gus worked odd jobs like shining shoes and scrubbing dishes, from which he only earned about $14 a week.
"It was kind of rough," Scouras said.
But he caught a break in 1955, when he landed a gig working on King William Island (now a part of Nunavut) on the DEW, or Distant Early Warning, Line — a series of radar stations running from Alaska to Greenland, designed to detect a Soviet invasion from the north.
It paid well, and after working for about a year, he had earned enough to move back to Winnipeg and open a small but mighty burger restaurant on Main Street and Broadway, which he called Junior's.
His brother George came on board to help him run the restaurant.
"We thought I was the junior of the two of us, so we just chose the name Junior's," he said.
That was where Gus and George got the idea to serve up a burger slathered with chili sauce. They called it the Lotta Burger, as in "that's a lotta burger."
It was an instant success, and a year later, they opened another spot on Portage. This time, they named it after George.
"We called it the Big Boy because my brother was the big guy, the fat guy," he said.
In keeping with the theme, the Big Boy called its version of the Lotta Burger "the Big Boy Burger."
The Big Boy restaurant became a regular haunt for hungry youngsters, and plastered patrons looking to grab a snack after the bar.
As Gus and George became more established, their younger brother, John Scouras, moved from Greece and joined the business.
The Lie of ‘No One Wants to Work’
After eight years in the restaurant industry, Estefanía decided she’d had enough. Last summer, she quit her job at a New American restaurant in Chicago where she had worked as a manager and sommelier since 2017. Estefanía, who asked to be referred to by her first name because she is an undocumented worker, said she got COVID-19 in June and took two weeks off to recover and quarantine. When she came back, she noticed a shift in the way her employers treated her. “I came back to be given the silent treatment from the owner,” she told me via email. “He said I abandoned him and that he couldn’t trust me [or] see me as a manager anymore.”
Estefanía said the last straw was when a coworker threatened to call ICE on her. She quit the restaurant, got a job as a receptionist, and thought she was done with the restaurant industry altogether. But the pay couldn’t compare to what she was making before, so now, she’s back. Despite her hesitancy to return to the industry, Estefanía just started working at a Mexican restaurant in Logan Square, which she describes as a better experience than her last job.
The fact that Estefanía quit restaurant work and returned makes her a COVID-era rarity. For months, restaurateurs across the country have been sounding the alarm about an industry-wide labor shortage. Managers of small, independent restaurants and big national chains alike have told the press they’re having trouble getting longtime staff to return to their jobs or finding new employees to replace them. Managers and owners are largely blaming their inability to retain — or even re-hire — staff on expanded unemployment benefits designed to mitigate the economic devastation of the pandemic claims that “no one wants to work” because they’d rather stay home and cash unemployment checks have become commonplace, even though they aren’t entirely accurate.
Matt Glassman, the owner of the Greyhound Bar & Grill in Los Angeles, said unemployment has made it harder to rehire staff, but added that it’s more complicated than people not wanting to work. Glassman’s restaurant has been closed since last summer and will reopen in May at reduced capacity. For servers and bartenders, fewer patrons means less tips — which means that they’re putting their health at risk while making less money than they would on unemployment. Glassman said he pays servers and bartenders $15 an hour before tips, and that before the pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for a bartender’s hourly wage to come out to $50 or $60 after tips. “Now that number is going to be closer to $25 to $30,” Glassman said.
The dangers are even more acute for back-of-house staff, like line cooks and dishwashers. “We do a ton of business out of a 400-square-foot kitchen,” Glassman said. “There’s no mask in the world that’s going to protect you from being next to someone for eight hours a day in that hot environment.” Even with vaccinations on the rise, plenty of people remain scared to go back to grueling restaurant jobs. A February study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that line cooks had the highest mortality rate during the height of the pandemic in the U.S. Even when cities were under “lockdown,” plenty of restaurants were open for takeout and delivery, and back-of-house staff were bearing the brunt of the labor and the risk.
Glassman said he’s offered 10 to 20 percent raises for back-of-house staff, but acknowledges that it may not be enough to entice people to come back. At the same time, he said it’s difficult for him to raise wages more than he already has, since the restaurant will be operating at limited capacity for the foreseeable future.
When Isaac Furman quit his job as a line cook in early 2020 to go back to school, he assumed it would be a temporary break from the industry. “I haven’t been back since,” he said, “because I can’t really trust any restaurant owners to provide a safe environment for their employees.”
Before quitting, Furman, who had worked in restaurant kitchens for seven years, thought he’d have a long — and hopefully fruitful — career as a cook. “I always figured I’d be an industry lifer,” he said. “I never harbored any illusions about it being easy per se, but I liked the idea of being part of the community… Restaurant ownership was the ultimate goal.”
Time away from the industry made him realize how disillusioned he had become with the industry, which he described as unsustainable and exploitative, especially in places with a high cost of living, like New York City. “By the time I was 26 at my last place, I was one of the oldest cooks in the kitchen,” he said. After he aged out of his parents’ health insurance, the subsidized insurance his work offered him was around $500 a month — which he could hardly afford with his wages. “Health care is a big part of this. The total lack of ability to raise a family while working on the line is, too. But there’s also the physical toll,” he added. “I had a foot injury once and couldn’t work for a week. What happens if it was longer than that? There’s absolutely no safety net, and every day you feel worse and worse.”
‘When We Get Back to Work After This, What’s Going to Change?’
Furman said these problems aren’t limited to any one restaurant or city they’re industry-wide. Nearly two million restaurant and bar workers lost their jobs between March and April 2020, when cities across the country first began shutting down due to the pandemic. The wave of re-openings and subsequent shutterings that came with ever-changing regulations and individual exposures meant that, in many cases, restaurants were laying off and re-hiring their staff cyclically. Fed up by the instability, some restaurant workers found jobs in other industries and didn’t look back.
Those who have decided to stick it out have more choices than ever before. Joseph Tiedmann, an executive chef in New Orleans, said the problem isn’t just that people aren’t applying to jobs, but that there are more open jobs than there are applicants. “The number of responses [to job listings] has definitely decreased but when we reach out to applicants, we’re way less successful in actually getting a hold of people or getting them to actually come in for interviews,” Tiedmann said. “There’s such a wide selection of restaurants to work at right now. If someone is looking for a job and they use Indeed or use Culinary Agent to put a resume out there, they’re going to get a ton of responses. They have so many choices, they’re bombarded by calls for interviews and may not have time to respond to all of them, or they might take the one that looks most favorable to them.”
Tiedmann said he’s offered pay increases to current staff members and higher starting wages for new employees, but hiring has still been difficult. If there’s any bright side to the current labor situation, he added, it’s that it’s causing owners and hiring managers to reevaluate everything from wages to company culture — and for consumers who spent the last year praising essential workers to realize they need to be paying more for their food.
“I think we’re at a point where people are like, ‘We’re going to have to raise our prices, because we need to pay our employees more money, and we need to offer them benefits when we can,’” Tiedmann said. “We need to make this an attractive business to work in. At the end of the day, it’s all about being able to do more for your employees. But in order to do that, you’re going to have to pay for it somehow.”
For those who have never worked in food service, the changes restaurant workers are asking for may not seem like much. But those who have been in the industry for a long time know how resistant many bosses are to change. Tara, a cook in the Washington, DC area who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her identity while she looks for work, said the pandemic has made her realize what her non-negotiables are. “I refuse to take [a job] that’s the minimum serving wage. I need a place that’s at least minimum wage plus tips,” she said. “We are so sick and tired of [restaurant owners] assuming we want a handout. We want to work, but we also want to be treated like human beings. We haven’t been for way too long.”
Gaby del Valle is a freelance reporter who primarily covers immigration and labor.
Junior’s Restaurant Owner Says “No We Are Not Closing!” - Recipes
At 68, an age when knees, shoulders, and fingers don’t bend quite as they used to amid the demands of a bustling kitchen, here comes chef Alan Lichtenstein, opening his first restaurant.
And he’s doing it for the same reason that hundreds of other, much younger chefs do.
Lichtenstein took over The Little Hen, the intimate French BYOB in downtown Haddonfield, in early May. He started there in 2020 as owner Mike Stollenwerk transformed The Little Hen into a French market selling provisions and sandwiches while continuing Two Fish, the nearby seafood restaurant he runs with Felice Leibowitz.
Lichtenstein retained manager Lauren Johnson, whom he considers his business partner.
“We’re not retail people,” said Stollenwerk. “We decided to stick to what we’re good at, and Alan wanted to run [The Little Hen] as a restaurant.” Two Fish, which Stollenwerk had run all along, continues.
What Lichtenstein is particularly good at is stick-to-itiveness. His LinkedIn bio says it all: “Many years experience and I stay [at] the same job for a long time.”
Lichtenstein spent 30 years at his previous job, chef de cuisine at the Rose Tattoo, a cafe-restaurant just north of Logan Square in Philadelphia.
His career tracks the 1970s restaurant renaissance in Philadelphia. He started as a student at George Washington High in Northeast Philadelphia, delivering pizzas for Piccolo’s, then an extremely popular shop on Bustleton Avenue known for its steak in a pouch.
“One day, the old [pizza] man hands me two spatulas and says, ‘Take that pizza out of the oven, and I did,’” Lichtenstein said. He worked in the kitchen after graduation in 1970, then attended Pennsylvania State University in Montgomery County for two years and one year at State College before going back to Piccolo’s, this time as a manager.
When boredom set in, he took SEPTA into Center City. “I was going to buy a pair of shoes and hitchhike to Florida,” he said. “I walked past The Commissary at 1710 Sansom and they had a [help wanted] sign in the window. I filled out an application and got the job.”
The Commissary, which opened in 1977, was the cafeteria offshoot of Steve Poses’ trailblazing Frog nearby. Lichtenstein started at the bottom — in the basement prep kitchen, chopping parsley with three other people. One cook taught him how to make terrines and pâtés. “One day, he got drunk and didn’t come in, and my very first soup was carrot,” he said. “The only criticism [from Poses] was that it needed more sherry.”
Poses didn’t recall that soup, specifically, but did praise his work ethic. “Alan’s passion was a key ingredient and will serve him well at this tender age,” Poses said, sharing pride that The Commissary “provided a ‘starter home’ for folks like Alan to connect their passion to others in the collective enterprise we call restaurants.”
After a few years, Lichtenstein moved on to the Yardley Inn. “I refused to wear a chef’s coat,” he said. “How could I? I still didn’t know what I was doing.” He started on salads, and when the next line cook left, he replaced him, and so on until he was executive chef after a year.
When the inn was sold, he returned to Piccolo’s and remained for 12 years, before jobs in South Jersey, at a caterer (Food for Thought) and a restaurant (The Wild Orchid).
In 1990, he crossed the bridge again to help run the kitchen for new owners Mike and Helene Weinberg at the Rose Tattoo, at 19th and Callowhill Streets, which grew into a date-night and business-lunch classic.
In a 2002, critic Craig LaBan described the Rose Tattoo as “a warren of lively, rambling rooms with giant bouquets of fresh flowers and the viny tendrils of nearly 300 exotic plants. A wrought-iron arcade on the second floor encircles the bar below with a romantic balcony reminiscent of New Orleans. But there is so much chlorophyll and oxygen charging the rooms that you might as well bring a plant mister when you come.” LaBan credited son Sean Weinberg’s fare as “vibrant, creative, and carefully cooked.”
Shortly after the Weinbergs sold it in 2019, Lichtenstein left, and a friend introduced him to Stollenwerk.
Stollenwerk, who is 23 years his junior, praised Lichtenstein’s skills and reliability. “He puts his heart into everything he does. And does everything very well and efficiently. He doesn’t seem like 68, when you think about it.” The sale, he said, “is a good opportunity for everyone.”
Lichtenstein changed The Little Hen’s menu only slightly since its dine-in days. “I’m not trying to knock people’s socks off,” Lichtenstein said. “I just want to keep it simple and elegant.” Steak frites. Duck. He takes a turn on Poses’ carrot cake recipe for dessert.
The difference for Lichtenstein nowadays are the stakes. He lives in Delran with his daughter, Lynda, and her husband and four children (with a fifth on the way), “and a cat and a bird.”
“Hopefully, I can make this work out and we can move into a nicer place for all of us,” Lichtenstein said. “I don’t have time to retire. I love cooking so much. I don’t mind being here — 12, 14 hours a day. On the other hand, I love going home and then playing with my grandkids. I held my 2-year-old grandson this morning before I left. This is why I’m doing this. I love my family.”
The World's Richest Restaurateur Has A Secret: It's Not About The Food
Tilman Fertitta is barely past the first of his many morning cups of coffee and the first ten minutes of our meeting when he decides, as is his wont, to take control. As soon as I break out my tape recorder, he picks it up and places it on top of a paper cup, within wrist-snapping distance, turning it off and on during our discussion as he deems fit. Having noticed poor lighting on another floor, he dispatches a passing employee to fix it. When I ask the 55-year-old to tell me about how he got started, he admonishes me in his thick Texas twang: "I've overread that story. I just hate to go that far back." So we don't, for now, because as Fertitta later tells me, laughing, "I do whatever the f--k I want."
Most of the time Fertitta, the 100% owner of Landry's, wants to gobble up hospitality businesses: specifically, poorly managed, out-of-date and distressed restaurants, hotels, casinos and boardwalks that he can buy on the cheap, often right out of bankruptcy court. Fertitta then cleans house. He fires top executives, closes failing locations, revamps existing ones and moves management to Landry's headquarters in Houston, where he can keep an eye on everyone. "When we buy somebody, we cut the head off," he says. "We keep the operators who are looking--I hate to use this term--they're looking for a leader. We lead very well. And we immediately spend money on them and make them better. Everybody wants to be led.
"Except for me," he adds. "I want to lead."
We're having coffee at Michael Patrick's Brasserie, a 24-hour restaurant (named after his two eldest sons) housed inside the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, one of the latest turnarounds he's leading. Throughout the weekend Fertitta, who is bunking on his 164-foot yacht, the appropriately named Boardwalk, will oversee the property's grand reopening, featuring a value-oriented talent roster, including Whoopi Goldberg, the Cake Boss and the Real Housewives of New Jersey. It was a typical Fertitta deal: He bought the waterfront casino and hotel from bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts for $38 million in February 2011, less than one-tenth a recent offer and $282 million less than what Trump paid in 1985.
As gambling options pop up around it, the Atlantic City market remains troubled. But bettors would be foolish to wager against Fertitta, who knows how to get leisure dollars out of consumer pockets. Fertitta is the richest restaurateur in the world and its most active dealmaker. Using Landry's as his vehicle, he has rolled up five public companies and countless smaller deals, and floated six larger equity offerings. His biggest deal was taking Landry's private in October 2010 for $1.4 billion, including $700 million in debt. He now lords over a $2.5 billion (sales) company that encompasses 421 outlets--all but 10 are stand-alone restaurants--and 56 brands, with a heavy dose of tourist-driven sit-down spots like Chart House and Bubba Gump Shrimp.
Mediocre food, it turns out, pays. FORBES estimates that Fertitta, who also owns a Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealership, is worth $1.5 billion, and his fortune is growing as he continues to expand. "He is like a private equity investor, but he does it with his own money," says Rich Handler, CEO of the investment bank Jefferies, who helped refinance Landry's debt in 2007 and has become Fertitta's close friend. "He took Landry's private because the public markets weren't going to allow him to invest in the properties as he saw fit. Now he has operated his way to exceptional cash flow that he continuously invests to improve and expand his properties." In January Fertitta completed his first hostile takeover, buying 90-plus-location McCormick & Schmick's for $131.6 million and quickly closing locations that were losing money. "I had never done a hostile before. I wanted to see what it was like," he laughs. "It wasn't painful for me. Was painful for them."
While his blustery demeanor masks it, hospitality is in his blood. His grandfather Vic Fertitta ran Galveston's legendary Balinese Room, a gambling house that in the 1940s hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope. Fertitta's father, also Vic, later owned a seafood restaurant in Galveston, where Fertitta peeled shrimp after school. That family history is still visible across the Landry's empire. One steak house brand, Vic & Anthony's, is named after Fertitta's father and uncle. Cousins Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta operate Ultimate Fighting Championship and Station Casinos in Las Vegas.
But it was his youth spent on the Texas coast that perhaps had the biggest impact on Fertitta. As a teen he often worked as a lifeguard at a Galveston hotel, where he says he learned firsthand that people always flock to coasts. Today he owns and operates the Pleasure Pier where that hotel once sat. Almost half of his properties are in coastal cities 80% of those are right on the water. Of his restaurants, 196 primarily serve seafood, under brands like Fish Tales and the Oceanaire, as well as Chart House and Bubba Gump Shrimp. "You can put the greatest seafood restaurant next to an average steak house in an urban area, and that steak house will do more business than the seafood place," he says. "If you go to the water, you can put an average seafood place next to the greatest steak house, and people are going to eat seafood."
Fertitta took his first big gamble at 23. Capitalizing on the vast wealth of the Texas oil boom he obtained a loan and built his first hotel, the 160-room Key Largo on the water in Galveston. He entered the restaurant business in 1980 when he joined up as a real estate specialist with Landry's Seafood restaurant. Six years later he sold Key Largo and used that cash to acquire a majority interest in Landry's and another restaurant, Willie G's Steakhouse & Seafood. In 1988 he bought a hurricane-ravaged restaurant named Jimmie Walker's on the boardwalk in Kemah, Tex., 20 miles from Houston. "It was a huge risk," says Jim Gossen, an early partner.
Fertitta converted Jimmie Walker's into a Landry's Seafood, and it became the most popular restaurant on the boardwalk. He eventually bought up every restaurant on the 40-acre Kemah boardwalk and transformed it into an entertainment complex with a wooden roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, hotel, stores and plenty of Landry's-owned restaurants. One Houston Press reporter would later pejoratively call Kemah "the Land of Landry's," for having turned what was once a quiet shrimping town into a glitzy, full-blown theme park.
Landry's went public in 1993 and then went on a buying binge: Joe's Crab Shack in 1994, Crab House in 1996, Rainforest Cafe in 2000, Chart House and Saltgrass Steakhouse in 2002. Fertitta was famously patient in waiting for the privilege to pay bottom dollar. He bid for casual restaurant chain Claim Jumper in 2005 but lost out to a group of private investors who paid $220 million for its 20 restaurants. Five years later he bought the then 38-restaurant chain out of bankruptcy for $48 million. He offered $125 million for Rainforest Cafe in 2000, but a large shareholder rejected the offer the stock plunged, and Fertitta picked it up for $75 million seven months later. In his 2010 book, It's a Jungle in There (Sterling Publishing, 2010), Rainforest Cafe founder Steven Schussler termed Fertitta "a brash, arrogant, bargain-basement, bottom-feeding acquisition nemesis." And those are some of the tamer words that have been used to describe him: ruthless and, yes, controlling, among them. Even Fertitta admits he is a bit obsessive, involved in all aspects of his business from negotiating deals to approving fabric swatches and working with chefs to perfect dishes.
Above all, Fertitta preaches cost control. He's boosted restaurant-level operating cash flow at every chain he's recently acquired: Chart House's margin has jumped from 15.5% to 23.3%, Claim Jumper's is up 4.9% since being bought in December 2010. Combined Ebitda of his last ten acquisitions (not including the recently opened Golden Nugget Atlantic City) is approximately $350 million, up from $200 million, as margins improve by an average of 6.3%.
This discipline proved especially useful during the last recession. "We were getting leaner and leaner before the downturn happened," says Rick Liem, Landry's CFO for the past ten years. At the time the company reviewed more than 250 items looking for cost savings. Where there were hardwood tables, tablecloths disappeared. In restaurants where the carpets were shampooed every two weeks, the schedule changed to every three weeks. Lemon wedges disappeared from plates that didn't need them, and in restaurants where fries were apportioned liberally, meaning more than 8 ounces, the piles came down to 7. The line items added up to millions in savings.
Rainforest Cafe was a textbook example: Efficiency-minded Fertitta was quick to make changes to the concept, altering signature dishes and even removing what had previously been a hallmark of the restaurants--live birds. The chain's founder, Schussler, had insisted that the birds not be behind glass walls but in the open, to be used as conversation-starters about recycling and conservation. But between bird feed, care and the ceiling vacuum systems required to keep bird dander off the food, the birds were costing each unit as much as $150,000 a year. Fertitta ditched the birds. Whenever he saw Schussler, Fertitta was always quick to mention what a steal he had made on the Rainforest concept, which Schussler describes as "rubbing salt in the wound."
Yet when Schussler came up with two new "eatertainment" concepts, Yak & Yeti and T-Rex Cafe (he describes the latter as "the most oversensory place on earth"), there was only one partner he could find to bankroll the $100 million price tag of the new projects--Fertitta. "Who else would let me put an animatronic dinosaur on top of a live shark tank in the middle of a restaurant?" Schussler asks.
So what's next? Fertitta says the company is busy "digesting" all of its recent acquisitions and claims to be done buying up 40-unit restaurant chains. "As the economy improves, there aren't as many opportunities," he moans. Any future moves will be on a grander scale. So now he is closing on his latest acquisition, a casino in Biloxi, Miss. that he plans to reopen as his fourth Golden Nugget Casino.
One thing Fertitta won't do: dump any of his dozens of brands. In all his years in the business he has sold only one: Joe's Crab Shack for $192 million in 2006. "I buy things that are good properties that I'm going to have forever," he says. "I just don't have any intention to sell anything. I believe you acquire good assets and you keep them and operate them. Twenty years from now," Fertitta insists, looking across the lobby of the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, "I'll still be here."
Acclaimed Bay Area restaurant to temporarily close after outcry over Black Lives Matter mask
A former employee of The Girl & The Fig says she was asked to remove her Black Lives Matter face mask at work.
LATEST Feb. 18, 11:00 a.m. The Girl & The Fig has reopened. For the full story, see here.
Feb. 10, 4:30 p.m. The Girl & The Fig is temporarily closing after receiving threats and backlash over former employee Kimi Stout's allegation of being pressured to quit for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask to work, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
President John Toulze told The Chronicle that he ultimately made the decision to shut down after seeing plans for a protest outside the restaurant circulate on social media, citing concerns over the staff's safety.
The Girl & The Fig has also released a new statement on its Facebook page:
On Sept. 3, 2020, Kimi Stout showed up to her server job at The Girl & The Fig, a popular French-inspired restaurant in Sonoma, wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. By the end of her shift, she no longer had a job.
For a while, Stout kept what had led to her departure from the highly acclaimed 24-year-old restaurant &mdash which has served esteemed guests including Lady Gaga and some &lsquoBachelor&rsquo contestants &mdash mostly private. But on January 1, 2021, she decided to post a video on her Instagram. Filmed on her last day at the restaurant, she is seen taking off her The Girl & The Fig T-shirt, throwing it in a garbage can, and raising two middle fingers to the sky, with the words &ldquoBlack Lives Matter&rdquo superimposed over the screen.
&ldquoOn September 3rd, 2020, I was forced out of my position as a server at The Girl and the Fig restaurant in Sonoma, CA for refusing to remove my &lsquoBlack Lives Matter&rsquo mask after a new mask policy was put into place. &hellip Happy New Year, friends. Spend your money selectively,&rdquo she wrote in the caption.
Just last week, Stout switched her Instagram account to public, and after popular comedian Jazmyn W shared Stout&rsquos video on her Instagram story, the views and comments of support started to pour in. But this story actually dates back even further. In August, just a few months after Stout returned to work at The Girl & The Fig for outdoor dining after being laid off in March, she says a manager pulled her aside. Stout was wearing a BLM mask.
&ldquoHe said, &lsquoyou're not in trouble by any means,&rsquo&rdquo said Stout. &ldquo&lsquoHowever, we just wanted to let you know that we did have somebody complain about your mask and they were very aggressive about it.&rsquo&rdquo
After offering her a different mask to change into, citing her safety as a concern, Stout declined. She says the president of the company, John Toulze, stopped by at the end of her shift to offer his support for her decision to keep wearing the mask. And so she continued to wear BLM masks to work every shift, and didn&rsquot hear anything new about it until September 1.
&ldquoI got a text notification saying &lsquonew mask policy in place, everybody sign,&rsquo&rdquo said Stout. &ldquo. I'm not saying that they wrote the policy for me, but I felt very targeted when I read it. I decided that I was going to wear my mask anyway, because as far as I knew, the president of the company, I had his 100% support.&rdquo
In a statement, Toulze confirmed that the restaurant created a new &ldquoformal face mask policy&rdquo for employees in September 2020, specifying that staff should wear &ldquoa The Girl & The Fig branded mask provided, or a plain black or blue surgical mask to provide flexibility but still align with the dress code.&rdquo
&ldquoThe policy was added to our formal dress code which details the required attire or uniforms for all staff. For example, in standard business conditions, we require servers and runners to wear plain blue jeans and a long sleeve, button down and collared white shirt with our signature green apron provided by the company,&rdquo continued Toulze&rsquos statement.
When Stout came into The Girl & The Fig on September 3, she wore her BLM mask. About halfway through her shift, she says Toulze asked her to turn her mask around to hide the logo. When she declined, she says he asked her to stop by his office after work.
&ldquoHe told me, &lsquoWe have a new mask policy in place, and we need you to abide by that,&rsquo&rdquo recalled Stout. &ldquo&lsquoAnd you know, I can't make exceptions, because if I make an exception for you, someone may come in tomorrow with another political mask, and I just can't have that. We can't be aligning ourselves anywhere politically.&rsquo&rdquo
After some back-and-forth, Stout says that Toulze told her that if she showed up wearing the same mask to work the following day, she would be sent home.
&ldquoI regret to say that I told him, you know, let's just call it now,&rdquo said Stout. &ldquoI don't want to cause a scene. I don't want to cause drama.&rdquo
Kimi Stout, a former server at The Girl & The Fig, took this photo of herself heading to work on September 3, 2020. During her shift, management asked her to remove her "Black Lives Matter" mask.
Toulze initially agreed to a phone interview with SFGATE about Stout&rsquos departure from The Girl & The Fig, but about 40 minutes before the scheduled interview time, Novel Public Relations, which represents The Girl & The Fig, sent an email saying the interview was canceled.
&ldquoUnfortunately, it is against company policy to provide any details about personnel or employment history for employee privacy reasons,&rdquo read the email.
Additionally, The Girl & The Fig&rsquos Instagram account &mdash with its nearly 14,000 followers &mdash went private. A few days later, a statement from Toulze was sent to SFGATE via the PR agency (which you can read in full at the bottom of the article):
We were disappointed to learn that a valued employee no longer wanted to continue employment with The Girl & The Fig after we created the face mask policy and resigned because they could not use their uniform to express support for this important cause.
The Girl & The Fig is founded by diverse ownership and prides itself on employing and supporting a diverse workforce. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and sincerely agree that we all have a responsibility to take action to dismantle systemic racism and injustice in our society.
When asked to clarify what Toulze meant by &ldquodiverse ownership,&rdquo the press representative responded that &ldquotwo of the three owners of The Girl & The Fig are Jewish, were raised in Philadelphia, and have experienced cultural discrimination and antisemitism in various forms throughout their lives.&rdquo
The Girl & The Fig did not respond to questions regarding whether they had received any customer complaints about employees wearing BLM masks, or whether they consider supporting BLM to be a political stance. (In July 2020, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel released an advisory opinion that the Black Lives Matter movement isn&rsquot political or partisan, clearing the way for federal employees to support it while on duty.)
The Girl & The Fig is located on the bottom floor of the Sonoma Hotel, which also provided a statement to SFGATE regarding the incident: &ldquoThe Sonoma Hotel has leased space to The Girl & The Fig for almost 21 years. Over that time we have always had a positive relationship with the restaurant, staff and ownership team,&rdquo wrote Sonoma Hotel co-owner Tim Farfan in a statement. &ldquoWe are a separate entity and are not aware of operational or staff issues at The Girl & The Fig. We know The Girl & The Fig ownership team to be responsible and conscientious community members that embrace inclusiveness and diversity, and use their resources to support important community causes.&rdquo
Clashes between companies and their workers over Black Lives Matter mask and T-shirt bans have become a recurring theme in the wake of a national reckoning with racial injustice, spurred by the police killing of George Floyd. Five employees of various Whole Foods stores across the country told Business Insider that they had worn Black Lives Matter clothing, and were told by management to remove it or leave work. On a local level, after an employee at the Whole Foods Market on Berkeley&rsquos Gilman Street spoke out about being asked to remove her Black Lives Matter mask at work, a few hundred people gathered in front of the grocery store to protest.
Despite criticism, Whole Foods held fast on its dress code, which bans clothing with &ldquovisible slogans, messages, logos or advertising.&rdquo Other companies, however, chose to reverse course after initially forbidding clothing items supportive of the movement. Taco Bell apologized to an employee who was fired for wearing a BLM mask, clarifying that it was not actually against the company's policy. Starbucks also changed its policy and lifted a ban on Black Lives Matter paraphernalia in June.
While Stout was eligible for collecting unemployment after she left The Girl & The Fig, and has since found a new job, she says the experience of being &ldquoforced out&rdquo of her job affected her deeply.
&ldquoIt&rsquos just cognitive dissonance,&rdquo said Stout. &ldquoIt really affected me that they preached, you know, inclusivity and family and together we're stronger. And yet they disagreed with me so much that during a pandemic, they forced me out.&rdquo
She says that The Girl & The Fig has been very vocal about expressing support for the Sonoma County community amid recent devastating wildfires, echoing sentiments of &ldquo#SonomaStrong&rdquo and &ldquolove is thicker than the smoke.&rdquo But from her perspective, that support didn&rsquot seem to extend to the Black Lives Matter movement. She suspects this is an issue indicative of the community at large.
Stout pointed to an op-ed from decade-long Sonoma resident Maurice Parker in the Sonoma Index-Tribune published in July called &ldquoSonoma is not Hallelujah.&rdquo In the column, Parker catalogues his experiences with racism as a Black man in an interracial marriage living in Sonoma.
"My mere presence in local restaurants ruins the meals of many customers,&rdquo he writes. &ldquo&hellip those diners will give my wife and me uncomfortable stares to clearly signal their opposition to our invasion of their sacred space. This is very common."
He writes that he&rsquos learned hearing Black members of the community share their experiences with racism can be difficult for Sonomans, who "view themselves as being fair minded, egalitarian and hospitable."
So, looking at the bigger picture, Stout isn&rsquot seeking sympathy on her end.
&ldquoI want this to be about Black Lives Matter,&rdquo said Stout. &ldquoI don't want it to be about me and &lsquooh, this girl lost her job.&rsquo Don't worry about me: worry about the fact that a very busy restaurant actively forced out somebody showing support for marginalized lives.&rdquo
You can read The Girl & The Fig&rsquos statement in its entirety below:
the girl & the fig prides itself on providing delicious food and drink that meets the highest standards of quality, freshness and seasonality to provide an exceptional dining experience for our guests. We pride ourselves on providing all who work with us a friendly, cooperative and rewarding environment that encourages long-term, satisfying growth. We also are committed to providing a caring environment in which every staff member feels respected by each other and treats each other the way they want to be treated.
the girl & the fig, the fig café & winebar and the girl & the fig CATERS! created a formal face mask policy for employees in September 2020. The policy specified that staff should wear a the girl & the fig branded mask provided, or a plain black or blue surgical mask to provide flexibility but still align with the dress code. The policy was added to our formal dress code which details the required attire or uniforms for all staff. For example, in standard business conditions, we require servers and runners to wear plain blue jeans and a long sleeve, button down and collared white shirt with our signature green apron provided by the company.
We seek to have every customer who comes through our doors leave impressed by our restaurants and excited to come back again. We believe that the professionalism of the girl & the fig dress code supports an exceptional dining experience and ambiance.
However, we recognize that after a year of devastating social injustice occurring across the country, face masks have become another opportunity for self-expression and visible displays of support for important issues including the Black Lives Matter movement. We were disappointed to learn that a valued employee no longer wanted to continue employment with the girl & the fig after we created the face mask policy and resigned because they could not use their uniform to express support for this important cause.
the girl & the fig is founded by diverse ownership and prides itself on employing and supporting a diverse workforce. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and sincerely agree that we all have a responsibility to take action to dismantle systemic racism and injustice in our society.
We stand behind the girl & the fig&rsquos face mask policy as we truly believe it&rsquos important to a premier dining experience, but we are committed to working with our employees and the public to identify impactful ways the girl & the fig can support important social justice issues including Black Lives Matter in our community. We have a long history of supporting marginalized communities outside the restaurant including significant donations and collaboration with groups like La Luz and Out In The Vineyard.
We are proud of our history of community engagement, but also recognize that there is more learning and listening we can do to show support for the Black community. We are committed to growing from this experience and continuing to provide an exceptional dining experience at the girl & the fig.
These Southeast Michigan Restaurants Closed Permanently During the Coronavirus Crisis
Countless restaurants and bars in southeast Michigan temporarily closed last March as COVID-19 ripped through the region, closing dining rooms and cutting into profits. Restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for dine-in service on June 8, 2020. However, a fall surge forced the health department to impose a new round of indoor dining closures. That shutdown began November 18 and ended February 1, 2021, when limited indoor dining resumed across the state. Indoor dining increased again to 50 percent capacity for restaurants and bars on March 5.
The financial pressures of the pandemic, coupled with the uncertainty of indoor dining capacity limits are forcing some owners to make tough decisions. Many restaurants and bars will not return.
Below are the metro Detroit and greater southeast Michigan restaurants that have closed locations permanently following the COVID-19 crisis. Know of a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or bakery that should be added to this list? Send the details to [email protected]
The Detroit restaurants that closed doors for good, before COVID-19 was a factor, are here.
HURON CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Waltz Inn, the popular 37-year-old restaurant in Waltz known for its fish and chips, is not reopening, according to a post on its Facebook page.
ROMULUS — Mexico Delicious Things is closed due to the pandemic, a source reports.
METRO DETROIT — Drought has closed its Detroit, Plymouth, Bloomfield, and Royal Oak cold-press juice shops, pivoting to just one retail location in Berkley, the company announced in a news release on its website.
ROSEVILLE— Hooters is permanently closed, leaving Michigan just three locations of the chain restaurant — Taylor, Flint, and Saginaw.
DOWNTOWN DETROIT — Republic Tavern and Parks and Rec Diner are both permanently closed, a source associated with the restaurants confirms. Both closures are due to the financial strain and dining room shutdowns brought on by the pandemic over the last year. There are no plans to reopen.
SOUTHWEST— Peso Bar permanently closes on Bagley Street after shutting down its dining room in early November due to the pandemic. Co-owner Jose Maldonado says he and his partners are now focused on opening Corktown tequila and mezcal bar Toma Detroit. Goblin Sushi Bar replaces Peso later this spring.
NOVI — The Novi location of Library Sports Pub and Grill closes Sunday, March 28, after 25 years in business on Grand River Avenue. The West Bloomfield location remains open and will not be affected.
CORKTOWN — Chef Kate Williams permanently closed her restaurant Lady of the House after four years in the neighborhood. “The pandemic has been ravaging small businesses for a year now and I think if this has shown us anything it’s that nothing is for certain,” Williams told Eater. For now, catch Williams popping up (with shrimp butter) every Wednesday evening at Batch Brewing Company.
CORKTOWN — Onassis Coney Island permanently closed after a decade in the neighborhood. However, owner Mario Gjolaj hopes to eventually reopen elsewhere in Corktown.
DEARBORN — Andiamo Dearborn closed after 17 years. Owner Joe Vicari, who also runs over 20 other restaurants, said the decision to close was due to the pandemic and the continued indoor capacity restrictions and “pauses” in dining service.
ROYAL OAK (WOODWARD CORNERS) — After closing its Brush Park cafe location in June due to the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, New Order Coffee announced on Facebook the closing of its remaining cafe location. “We have permanently closed our cafe business,” the post reads, in part. However, the coffee company continues to sell its beans and other merchandise online.
HARMONIE PARK — After four and a half years in downtown Detroit’s Harmonie Park, Dilla’s Delights departed its space in January inside the flat iron section of the Ashley building. Owner Herman Hayes, better known as Uncle Herm, notified fans around the world of the closure in an Instagram Live post on Monday, January 11, but promised to eventually return. Dilla’s Delights had been closed since last March, around the time of the first in-person dining shutdown in Michigan. Several months prior, Hayes had begun a crowdfunding campaign to help keep the shop in business while he recovered from cancer treatments. “We struggle like everybody else,” Hayes said, referring to the economic and health impact of the pandemic. “The lease was up in February anyway, and it didn’t make sense to open back up for a couple of months [only to close again].”
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — After much excitement over its resurrection last winter, pizza and kids’ entertainment restaurant Major Magic’s has once again closed. “It is with great regret to inform you that we are shutting down our operations effective immediately,” the owners write in a Tuesday, November 17 Facebook post. “We gave Major Magic a new heart but sadly it has stopped.” The operators are planning to sell all the assets including gables, kitchen, equipment, and, yes, the animatronic characters, too. Call 586-823-2115 if you’re interested in buying something. Major Magic’s is also hosting an open house from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 21 and Sunday, November 22.
HUBBARD RICHARD— The trendy Mexican bar Peso closed its space on Bagley Street, due to the pandemic despite hopes they could return once the health crisis improved. Jose Maldonado says he and his partners are now focused on opening their next venture together, Corktown tequila and mezcal bar Toma Detroit.
GRANDMONT-ROSEDALE — After many years of fighting to maintain a third-place, community cafe in Grandmont-Rosedale, Town Hall Caffé (formerly Always Brewing Detroit), permanently closed at the end of October. After failing to reach an agreement with her landlord that would allow her to temporarily close over the holiday season, owner Lindsey Marr made the difficult decision to close the business. Marr writes in a message on Instagram that while the pandemic was a factor, her mother’s late-stage cancer diagnoses also made it difficult for her to continue operating the shop.
YPSILANTI — Vegan sweets brand Sugarbeet Bakery closed for business on Saturday, October 31, citing financial issues stemming from the ongoing pandemic.
WARRENDALE — The Ford Road location of Tijuana’s Mexican Kitchen closed permanently after nearly 10 years, citing lost sales, increased costs, staff shortages, and other COVID-19 related business impacts in a post to Facebook. the restaurant owners plan to reopen the Lincoln Park location on Monday, November 2.
LAKE ORION — In an emailed announcement to recipients of its mailing list, metro Detroit restaurant group Kruse & Muer confirmed that it would permanently close the Kruse & Muer Roadhouse in Lake Orion on Friday, October 30. The restaurant group cited road construction around the business and the COVID-19 crisis as contributing factors in the decision to close and sell the property to a “longtime former team member” Darrel Sanrope. He and his wife Kathy Sanrope plan to relocate their Port Huron restaurant to the Lake Orion space.
DOWNTOWN — Wolfgang Puck has left the building metaphorically at the MGM Grand Detroit. The well-known restaurateur permanently closed Wolfgang Puck Steak during the pandemic.
CASS CORRIDOR — Brujo Tacos and Tapas at the Detroit Shipping Company has closed permanently, making way for a halal food stall. The non-traditional taco shop closed at the end of September as chef and owner Petro Drakopoulos left for new projects as head of food and beverage at the Atheneum Hotel Detroit.
FARMINGTON — Boozy ice cream bar mini chain Browndog Barlor is closing its Farmington location permanently due to financial strains from the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Although this was a difficult decision, we feel that this is a necessary step to allow us to consolidate resources and keep the Browndog brand financially viable during these trying times,” the company wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday, October 6. Browndog plans to keep its Northville location open as well as its production facility in Oak Park, which supplies retail stores around the area.
HAMTRAMCK — Although its final dinner technically happened back in March, Revolver’s co-founder Peter Dalinowski made the pop-up restaurant’s closing official on Wednesday, October 1, confirming to the Detroit Free Press that the space was permanently closed.
ANN ARBOR — Poke and acai bowl shop Pocai has permanently closed and traded places with Sidebiscuit, a chicken wing and biscuit pop-up run by chef Jordan Balduf. It’s expected to open in the space soon.
CORKTOWN — Detroit Institute of Bagels is closed permanently, though there’s still a smidgen of hope that it could return under new ownership. The restaurant building is listed for $1.5 million through O’Connor Real Estate.
CORE CITY — The partners behind Takoi and Magnet dissolved their restaurant group in August and announced the permanent closure of the less-than-a-year young Core City restaurant. Magnet closed to “recalibrate and refocus” in July. Takoi is now under the sole ownership of chef Brad Greenhill.
ANN ARBOR — The Lunch Room Diner and Canteen permanently closed in Kerrytown, though Detroit Street Filling Station and the Lunch Room Bakery remain open.
ANN ARBOR — Satchel’s BBQ has permanently closed its downtown Ann Arbor location due in part to the pandemic, MLive reports. The restaurant’s owner stated in an email to customers on Friday, August 7 that it was important to close the location and focus resources on keeping the better-performing, original restaurant on Washtenaw Avenue afloat.
NEW CENTER — Nearly three years after setting down roots in the former Cafe Con Leche space on West Grand Boulevard, Avalon Cafe & Biscuit bar is closing down permanently. Avalon International Breads confirmed the closing in a post to social media on Wednesday, August 5. “We are sad to leave New Center, but very encouraged by the community response to the energy and love we’ve put into Willis since reopening. We’ve been able to combine the best of both worlds, and it’s been a great reminder that we are all in this together,” the company writes. “Stop by Willis to see familiar (masked) faces from Willis and the Biscuit Bar alike. Our doors and hearts are open!”
CASS CORRIDOR — Alley Taco appears to have closed on Willis Street. The restaurant had been posted for sale — full business included — pre-pandemic, and is now listed as under contract by O’Connor Real Estate. That suggests it could potentially reopen in the future under new management. As of now, the restaurant’s social media accounts haven’t been updated since early May and its phone is disconnected. Third-party delivery services and Yelp list the location as closed.
WATERFORD TOWNSHIP — A reader reports that after many years in the area, Carrie Lee’s Lake Garden, a Chinese restaurant, has closed permanently. The Lake Orion location remains open for service.
BERKLEY — Bakeshop Holy Cannoli’s did not reopen following an extended pandemic closure. On July 1, the company announced on Facebook that the Berkley location would be closing permanently in order to “turn our resources” to the Rochester shop.
ROYAL OAK — Nello’s Eatery, a diner located along Woodward Avenue has not reopened since the stay-at-home order. In July, customers on Yelp and Google report that it is permanently closed.
CANTON — An Eater tipster points out that Vinnie’s Italian Sub Shop in Canton has closed permanently. The sub shop’s assets were listed for auction in July. It’s possible that novel coronavirus didn’t factor into the decision. The shop temporarily closed in 2019, “due to an accident.” The Romulus location is still open for takeout.
YPSILANTI — After 10 years in Ypsilanti, Ollie Food & Spirits closed permanently. The owners cited the current economic challenges of the pandemic as a major factor in the decision to shut down. The business will be placed up for sale, according to an Instagram post from Saturday, July 11. Sister bakery Cream & Crumb is also closing down to make way for a new project, a record shop-cocktail spot called Wax Bar.
ROYAL OAK — Golden Basket, a diner located along Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, appears to have shuttered. Google lists the location as permanently closed and the phone number is disconnected.
WEST VILLAGE — Short-lived neighborhood cocktail spot Destination 1905 announced on Tuesday, June 9 that it’s temporary March closure due to novel coronavirus had become a permanent closure. “For our bar to be financially sound it needs to be operating at full capacity nearly always, which can be challenging enough even in the best of times,” the bar’s owners wrote in a post to Instagram. “We don’t see that as a possibility any time soon, and don’t have ability to wait for those days to return.”
ANN ARBOR — Mikette, the French-Mediterranean restaurant from the group behind Insalita and Mani Osteria, is permanently closed after five years in Ann Arbor. Popular items like Mikette’s oysters and Le Mec burger will be served at its sibling restaurants, per a Facebook post from Tuesday, June 23.
ROYAL OAK — Detroit Taco Company has closed its original location in Royal Oak, citing issues negotiating the terms of its lease. The restaurant chain is continuing to operate in Troy with plans for locations in Shelby Township and Detroit, according to a Facebook post from Thursday, June 11.
YPSILANTI — Lauded Mexican restaurant Dolores in Ypsilanti is closed for now and possibly for good. The restaurant shared the announcement on Friday, June 5, to followers that it would not be feasible to continue operating under the current state requirements. “This sucks. We love our crew. We love our regulars. We love our neighborhood. We love our tacos and cocktails,” the owners wrote in their statement to followers on Instagram. There is some hope that the business could return in the fall in “some shape and form.”
BIRMINGHAM — The Townsend Bakery inside the Townsend Hotel has permanently closed due to financial issues stemming from the pandemic. The bakery operated for 27 years at the site and closed in March, according to WDIV.
ANN ARBOR — Craft beer store Blue Front is closing permanently on Saturday, June 27. The store’s inventory is currently marked down between 20 percent and 50 percent off.
ANN ARBOR — Espresso Royale has permanently closed all of its locations in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, and Madison, according to MLive. The company’s management initially believed the closure would be temporary due to the pandemic, but the financial situation became insurmountable.
LIVONIA — The Livonia location of the Romano’s Macaroni Grill chain appears to have closed permanently, Hometown Life reports. The company website doesn’t currently list any locations in Michigan.
STERLING HEIGHTS — Andiamo’s Sterling Heights outpost is permanently closed as of Sunday, June 14. The restaurant was rumored to be on the way out in February when plans for a new Portillo’s restaurant — Michigan’s first location — were proposed at the address. The site plan for the Portillo’s restaurant has been approved by the city, although the Chicago restaurant chain has yet to confirm the expansion.
ANN ARBOR — Snap Custom Pizza is permanently closed due to COVID-19, according to Crain’s.
METRO DETROIT — Two Panera Bread restaurants located in Westland and Plymouth have permanently closed. A Pizza Hut in Westland also closed.
SOUTH LYON — Closed since the end of March, A Good Day Cafe in South Lyon has permanently closed due in part to the challenges of the pandemic. The restaurant originally opened in 2017.
AVENUE OF FASHION — Table No. 2, a fine-dining restaurant on Livernois Avenue, was barely scraping by on carryout during the pandemic after a year spent on the edge due to construction disruptions. Now, the restaurant has been pushed from its building, the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Omar Mitchell tells the Free Press, the landlord has sold the building and given the restaurant notice to vacate. Mitchell is now crowdfunding $30,000 to help reopen in a larger, turnkey space.
ANN ARBOR — The owners of Logan Restaurant announced to Facebook on Monday, June 8 that it will close permanently after 16 years in downtown Ann Arbor. The restuarant will briefly transition into a wine store in order to sell the remainder of its inventory and glassware.
ANN ARBOR — LGBTQ-friendly Aut Bar is closing permanently after 25 years of business, MLive reports. The owner attributed the closure to declining business and costs of building improvements, coupled with the financial challenges of novel coronavirus.
METRO DETROIT — Sanders Candy has closed four metro Detroit stores in Grosse Pointe, Livonia, Novi, and St. Clair Shores, according to Crain’s. That leaves only two remaining company-owned brick and mortar shops for Sanders, which will focused delivery of its confections. Two other licensed shops in Wyandotte and on Mackinac Island will not be impacted.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Closed since March 16, Marovski’s Family Restaurant in Dearborn Heights announced on Tuesday, June 2, that it is closing permanently after 50 years of business. “A worldwide pandemic was the only thing that could separate our tightly knit family if you were here, you were definitely family,” the owners write in a statement to Facebook.
BRUSH PARK — New Order Coffee announced on Monday, June 1 that it will close its original location in Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood. “Due to the current climate, we’ve made the difficult decision to permanently close the doors at our location in Midtown, Detroit,” the company writes in a statement to Facebook. “This wasn’t an easy decision to make but we know it’s the best path to take for our future. Royal Oak (Woodward Corners) will continue to be our home base for now and we look forward to continuing to grow once this pandemic subsides. Thank you for supporting us.” New Order opened its doors at the Detroit location in July of 2017. (Update, 9:30 p.m., June 1) New Order Coffee has updated its announcement to clarify that the decision was made based on economic hardship due to the the novel coronavirus pandemic:
Regardless of perception, we have always struggled with sales volumes here and the current pandemic tipped things over the edge for us. This was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make, but we also felt that it was the only way forward.It would be wrong to address this and not speak to the events transpiring in the world today. They are inextricably linked to how this already difficult announcement was read by many. Like you, our hearts break for George Floyd and his family. We are simply a small business, trying to do our best to navigate through tragic times.
The company writes that it is “deeply sorry for any pain we caused with our announcement.”
ANN ARBOR — Arbor Brewing Company, established in downtown Ann Arbor in 1995, plans to close its original location permanently on Sunday, June 7. “The businesses realities of operating in this location have changed over the years,” the company’s owners write in a statement posted to the website on May 26. “They had grown increasingly challenging even pre-COVID-19, and we expect there will be even more challenges on the other side of the shutdown.” The Ypsilanti and Plymouth locations will not be impacted and employees will have the opportunity to transfer to other jobs within the company. The owners say they are “evaluating multiple locations now and hope to have more news on that soon” on where the Ann Arbor taproom may land next.
ROYAL OAK — Hopcat is permanently closing its Royal Oak location after the company was unable to strike an agreement with the building landlord. The company temporarily closed all of its locations in March due to financial pressures from novel coronavirus, but had intended on returning to service at a regular date. Hopcat founder Mark Sellers told Eater in a statement that the restaurant chain intends to eventually reopen elsewhere in Royal Oak.
MILFORD — Lebanese restaurant Blue Grill has permanently closed after 8 years of business. In a May 22 post to Facebook, the restaurant cited the owner Dimitri Mansour’s passing in 2019 as a blow to the business that was compounded by the pandemic. “In many ways the restaurant business will never be the same as it was before March, 2020,” the Mansour family writes. “We did not know when we shut down as part of the shelter in place order that the doors of Blue Grill would never open again. Each day with expenses piling up and no revenue to meet these demands, we felt it. Hoping and strategizing to come up with ways that may allow us to rebuild and thrive, we just don’t see a way.” The restaurant will continue selling its dressings and marinades under the name Blue Grill Foods.
CANTON — A tipster with knowledge of the business tells Eater that J.B’s Smokehouse in Canton is closed permanently. The barbecue restaurant and live music venue announced a temporary closure in April, but privately has informed staff and frequent customers that it will not be reopening.
ROYAL OAK — After 13 years of business, Town Tavern in Royal Oak will close permanently, the Daily Tribune reports. Owner Bill Roberts addressed the closure in an April 17 memo to the city requesting it return the restaurants $1,000 application liquor license fee for 2020 through 2021, since the business barely had the opportunity to use it before novel coronavirus ravaged the health of Michiganders and and the economy.
ANN ARBOR — Wilma’s, a restaurant that underwent a name change last year, announced on April 22 that it would close permanently. The business, operated by SavCo Hospitality, has lived under several different names at that address since 2011. The restaurant management writes in a post to Instagram: “Due to… well… you know what… we have made the very difficult decision to not reopen this location as a response to the times and feasibility of surviving reopening with all of the challenges we are facing. Exorbitant rent. Social distancing restrictions placed on restaurants. Seating restrictions. Massive debt growing daily.”