The rumors started flying on Saturday: Bel Ami is closing. Get down there. Last night.
Since then, we've heard from a number of disappointed folks, from former employes who spoke of the restaurant's staff having been one big family to semi-regulars at the bar who were already in mourning. And we've read stories that said the whole Bel Ami space was closing, and some that said that it wasn't. We got confused.
As it turns out, a little bit of everything seems to be true.
Midtown owner Roscoe Divine says, "All that's really happening is that we're not going to serve the high-end Bel Ami dinners." The coffee shop and bistro counter at the front of the building will remain, with an expanded bistro menu and slightly changed hours. Both will be open from 7 am to 8 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until late â€” midnight or one â€”Â on the weekends. "We may change that," Divine says. "We're open to seeing how things go."
With the new arrangement, patrons will be able to go to the counter (or to the bar) and order food and drink into the evening, just as they currently do during breakfast and lunch hours.
As for the short notice given to those employees let go in the restructuring, Divine points to other struggling local businesses, such as Monaco, and says, "There's no other way to do it. You have to pick a day."
In the end, it's good news and bad news at once, and I'm not sure how to feel: I'm glad we're not down an entire establishment, but I'm disappointed for the let-go staff, who face an incredibly tough job market. This is the latest restaurant to face changes or closure in a long line of the same (RIP Vaquero, Zenon, Chanterelle...), and Eugene's service industry staff (and Eugene's diners) are suffering for it. But in just the six years I've been back in Eugene, the building at the corner of 16th and Willamette has been through a handful of transformations: from the L&L Marketplace, with its coffee regulars and beloved French Horn, to Triomphe to its current incarnation as Midtown, it's changed and changed again. We'll just have to see how this one plays out.
If you've got thoughts, I'd love to hear them in the comments.