Montmartre got good reviews when it opened, and the restaurant certainly has its fans, but Gabe Stulman says that "not enough people walk through the door." And so, the prolific restaurateur has decided that he will close his Chelsea bistro in March. He informed the entire Happy Cooking team last night. Before the restaurant's final night of service, he plans to find jobs for all of the Montmartre staffers, ideally within his group. Stulman explains:
Here we are, three years old, and with all the tweaks and modifications that we've made, we've had some successes and some not successes. But the end result is that no matter what we do, it's not manifesting itself in the level of growth that we need to sustain it. The bottom line is that we're not doing enough covers enough of the night. We've got fans and people that love our restaurant — I meet people who say that Montmartre is their favorite — but the reality is that the number of people that are in that group is not enough, and it sucks. It really does. It's really difficult. I'm super grateful for all the people that I've got to work with.
The restaurant opened in February 2013, with a menu of Asian-influenced French bistro fare from chef Tien Ho. Michael Toscano took over the kitchen eight months after opening, but he parted ways with Stulman's group about a year later. The restaurateur says that the layout of the space was particularly challenging, because of the large garden that was only open half the year. Stulman notes: "The reality is that for six months out of the year, we're like a 45-seat restaurant, and then for the six months when the garden's open, we're still a 45-seat restaurant, because nobody wants to eat inside."
This is the first time that Stulman has ever closed a restaurant, and he wants to make sure that he does it in a way that is fair to both his employees and his regulars. Gabe notes:
I once worked at a restaurant that closed with no more than a 10-day head's up, and there's something really shitty about that. And I looked at the way that Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group closed Tabla. And I found, personally, a lot of class and professionalism and respect with the way that they went about it. I believe that every restaurateur and chef and restaurant group puts a ton of effort into building their reputation and defining themselves with how they go about opening a restaurant and how they go about running a restaurant. And I think we put the same level of importance and emphasis on how we open and how we run a restaurant. I think it's equally important that we show that same attention with how we close a restaurant.
It's imperative that we close with the same hopeful level of class and respect that we entered with. And so, that's why we're giving everyone a three month's head's up. We're not gonna be, like, "Oh yeah, we're closing at the end of service on Saturday." We want all of our vendors to know. We're going to either place every single staff member in our restaurants, or with a friend, and we will not quit until we have 100 percent placement. We want to absolutely spend the next three months letting all the people who have enjoyed Montmartre come back to enjoy another meal with us. We want to handle it that way. We're going to guarantee our staff all their wages and earnings until the last plate is served.
Stulman has not decided on the exact date of the final service. The restaurateur also operates Joseph Leonard, Perla, Fedora, Bar Sardine, and Jeffrey's Grocery.