River Bistro, owned by world-renowned Detroit chef, closes

Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 17:54:45-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A world-renowned chef is closing the doors at one of his Detroit restaurants.

Chef Maxcel Hardy was recently recognized by the New York Times in their article about 16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America.

Now, his restaurant on Grand River is out of business. Many factors may have led to that decision.

Chef Maxcel Hardy closed River Bistro Friday.

“I put blood, sweat, tears in there,” he said.

River Bistro was a Caribbean restaurant that opened two years ago.

Chef Hardy picked the location on Grand River because he wanted to give this neighborhood a better food option.

“I wanted to come to a community where I’m from where people look like me, talk like me, walk like me,” Hardy said.

Early this year, he knew it was getting harder and harder to keep his business going. River Bistro started offering $5 lunches but couldn’t compete with other eateries.

“You-Buy-We-Fry, the Pizza Hut – all the quick and fast casual stuff, the McDonald's and so forth," Hardy said. "It’s a little tough when you’re trying to do a restaurant of River Bistro caliber.”

Last year, he opened Coop at the Detroit Shipping Company. As that was thriving, River Bistro was not.

The final straw he says is all the construction on Grand River that started in August and is supposed to be complete by November.

“That was the nail in the coffin,” Hardy said.

Business dropped by 75%. The city says they have support programs to help businesses in the construction zone. Chef Hardy says it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t have been enough to save River Bistro.

“(It) made my decision that much easier to say, ‘you know what, let’s close down,’” he said.

It’s been a tough month for Chef Hardy. His extended family is trying to recover after Hurricane Dorian destroyed their home. He will be heading to the Bahamas to help with the recovery efforts while he regroups too.

As for the construction, Diane Cross from MDOT stated:

“MDOT has worked closely with the City of Detroit to consider all factors in planning this project on M-5. This project, like all of our projects, takes into consideration a number of factors; drivers, pedestrians, local traffic and business. We did our best to accommodate all of those factors by allowing one lane of traffic, another lane for left turns, and on-street parking. While construction can cause delays, it is a temporary situation for a long-term benefit.”

Chef Hardy is also thinking long-term.

“After the construction is over and the community starts to change a bit, I think we will have opportunities to come back and do it again,” he explained.