Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar opened its doors in downtown Denver almost three years ago. Sunday May 25 is the restaurant's last day of regular service.
The classic French bistro was restaurateur Robert Thompson's second attempt at the concept after Brasserie Rouge, a short-lived but acclaimed restaurant that was named, among others, Best New Restaurant by Westword, Best French Restaurant by the Denver Post, and listed among the Nation's Best New Restaurants by Gourmet Magazine. Last July, Thompson brought chef John Broening on board as culinary director at Le Grand; the two previously collaborated on Brasserie Rouge.
"I want our customers to understand why this venture didn't work in the traditional sense: Ultimately, the fault lies with me. I should not have taken on a venture in a district that was so entirely dependent on theatre and convention traffic," says Robert Thompson, the sole owner of Le Grand. "I don't think I'm geared to manage that type of inconsistent up and down business. Finding consistent staff that rolls with those ups and downs of traffic (traffic we have little control over) is not something, apparently, we do well. Parking constraints played in significantly, and for other restaurants in the district. We've been told by most of the district restaurants that they've been down materially in traffic the past year as while theatre traffic has been weak," he added.
The restaurant was included in the 5280 Magazine Best New Restaurants in its first year open. "This district couldn't support Le Grand even after making the cover of 5280 Magazine," shared Thompson. "Of course, there is always fallout when a business closes. The good news is we have jobs for almost everyone at either Argyll Whisky Beer or PBS and we are doing great as a company," he continued.
At the end of 2013, his other venture, Punch Bowl Social, was 50% above original projections at the original location. He opened a second location of the concept in Portland and two new Punch Bowl Social units in Austin and Detroit are in the making.
Thompson is in the process of opening two new restaurants in Denver: Argyll Whisky Beer and the Griffin. "It's terrible to have to close a restaurant, but the world keeps on spinning; we're not jumping off any tall buildings. Instead, we'll focus on making Argyll Whisky Beer and Griffin the best restaurants possible. The team is terrific with chef Broening leading the culinary approach and Ryan Conklin pushing the beverage program as cicerone," the restaurateur said. "We never stop learning, getting better at our trade, and chalk this up as a hard lesson learned," he concluded.