The man who decided to cease operations of the riverfront The Bistro at the River was the only applicant after the city issued a new request for proposals to operate the restaurant. This time around, he is confident that the business will be viable and sustainable.
“The only reason we left was because it wasn’t financially feasible for us. Now that we have restructured our lease with the city, it looks like it’s going to work for us,” said Tony Bahceli in a phone interview with OurWindsor. “It’s something that the city wants to see open to the public [and] it’s something that has our name on it and we’d like to see it work.”
Bahceli noted that the biggest difficulties in operating The Bistro were that the city wouldn’t allow for the restaurant to close during the winter, that the rent was too high and that without adequate signage, potential patrons weren’t able to visually identify that there was even a restaurant at the base of Ouellette Avenue.
The city has allowed for The Bistro to close during the winter, has agreed to allow signage to advertise the business and has entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with Bahceli instead of traditional rent payments.
“Instead of paying a monthly rent, we worked out a revenue sharing agreement,” said Bahceli. “We pay a percentage of our sales to the city in lieu of rent … when we’re making money, they’re making money … if our sales area high, their rent is high [and] if our sales are low, the rent is low.”
Bahceli believes that the new model of The Bistro will be successful and sustainable, however, he did note that the location makes for a very challenging business model.
“It is a very challenging location. It’s all by itself there – there’s nothing else around it that would attract people, and it’s not even visible to people that are driving or walking by,” said Bahceli. “You have to know that there is a restaurant to go there.”
Bahceli noted that summertime is the busiest time for The Bistro and that “as the weather changes, our business changes. As long as there are people downtown and coming to the riverfront, our business is good.”
While many noted that The Bistro in its first inception offered too much ‘fine dining’, Bahceli rebuffed such classifications and expressed that his fare simply catered to different people.
“People are calling it a fine dining, but I don’t think it was fine dining. We provided nice table cloths but you were able to get a corned beef sandwich,” said Bahceli. “I don’t know if you call that fine dining … but we try to accommodate everyone.”
Kate D’Asti rides her bike along the riverfront from west-Windsor to the Walkerville area twice a day and explained that she has never been to The Bistro during her travels.
“I have not been to the Bistro, mostly because of the pricing,” explained D’Asti. “I’ve heard it was pretty pricey, and with all the local eats for low prices in the area I tend to stick with what I know.”
D’Asti would rather an entirely uninterrupted riverfront without any businesses rather than for the continuation of development.
“I would love to see an uninterrupted riverfront – there’s plenty of room for business on the streets,” said D’Asti. “I’m not wishing for the Bistro to fail, but the riverfront is one of the few decent biking/walking paths in the area.”
Bahceli is eager to resume business at The Bistro.
“We look forward to seeing our customers again as well as other who have never been there yet,” said Bahceli. “We’re looking forward to serving them.”
Jonathon Liedtke is the Features & Opinion Editor for the University of Windsor Lance Campus/Community Newspaper and a reporter for ourWindsor.ca. As a founding member and current Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee, he is committed to representing, connecting, engaging with and advocating for local youth. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.