By SYLVIA RECTOR
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The 300-seat Seldom Blues fine-dining restaurant and jazz club at the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit closed Monday, five months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
A spokesman for restaurateur Frank Taylor, one of the restaurant’s founders and the chief owner of Seldom Blues LLC, said positions were being sought for the 40 employees at other restaurants Taylor owns.
Attorneys had been in negotiations “at least half a year” with landlord General Motors to reduce the 17,000-square-foot restaurant’s rent payments in order to offset its business losses, said Taylor spokesman Michael Layne of Marx Layne public relations firm. But they could not reach a new agreement.
The stylish white-tablecloth restaurant was an immediate see-and-be-seen destination for Detroit politicos, athletes and celebrities when it opened in mid-2004. Its sweeping views of the Detroit River and Windsor skyline and its nightly live jazz performances drew standing-room-only crowds.
With the Super Bowl heading into Detroit in 2006, the Free Press named it Restaurant of the Year.
The closing announcement blamed the restaurant’s business losses on “the financial
distress brought on by Detroit’s automotive crisis,” which forced GM to cut back on business-related entertainment, and the closing of many of the RenCen’s shops and offices.
However, Valentine’s weekend had been busy, Layne said. “The holidays and weekends were always busy. That’s the challenge. The problem was weekdays and weeknights.”
Mike O’Callaghan, vice president and COO of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Seldom Blues “will be missed. … It was such a great restaurant and had such a great location.”
The RenCen has two remaining white-tablecloth destination restaurants, both with river views: Andiamo Riverfront on street level and Coach Insignia at the top of the complex’s tallest tower.
Coach Insignia’s business “has actually been very good,” founder Matt Prentice said.
In fact, he said, his company might be interested in opening a seafood restaurant in the Seldom Blues space.