San Chez A Tapas Two On Tap

April 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — One of downtown’s most popular restaurants is getting ready to add another eatery in hopes that the two will feed off each other.

Dan Gendler will open a new business in the same building that houses San Chez-A Tapas Bistro in June. Gendler hopes the new restaurant will develop its own clientele and also appeal to the regulars who have made San Chez a favorite dining spot for a dozen years.

Although Gendler, president of San Chez, hadn’t named the new bistro when the Business Journal spoke with him recently, he most assuredly knew what the restaurant would be and that it would have a Spanish theme to complement San Chez.

“It will be a fast, casual-type format of sandwiches, salads, soups, pastry dessert and coffees with more of a Panera Bread-type of service,” he said of the daytime menu.

“We will have servers on the customer side of the counter helping with the choices in sort of a San Chez A Tapas style, where we explain the cuisine as opposed to where we just stand on the other side of the counter,” he said.

In the evening, Gendler said the bistro would become a New York-style nightclub with a mix of entertainment offered on different nights of the week. That could mean Spanish guitar during the week, a cabaret on the weekend, and maybe even some belly dancing.

“We will have some Moroccan influences there because there are a lot of Moroccan tapas and Moroccan influences in Spain,” said Gendler, who will add up to 20 employees to his staff when the second bistro opens.

The new restaurant will also offer a cocktail area to the dining crowd waiting for a table at San Chez.

Second Story Properties Executive Vice President John Green said Gendler signed a long-term lease for the space that was previously occupied by Progressive Hardware. The new restaurant, which will be about half the size of San Chez, will have seating for 80 and will provide a more intimate surrounding for a nightclub than San Chez could.

“It will offer an opportunity to have a really good entertainment venue. So, hopefully, we’re going to see an ebb and flow of customers going back and forth throughout the day,” said Gendler.

Second Story owned the structure until May, when the development firm sold it to Lee Shore Properties. The 51,000-square-foot building was built in 1884 and renovated in 1987 and again in 2000. The structure is also known as the Leonard Building.

“The lobby will be renovated and there will be an entryway into the new restaurant,” said Green, whose company manages the building and leases space in it.

“Dan has been very successful there. In fact, he just renewed his lease for San Chez, as well. So he is committed to the area and to the building,” he added.

San Chez was one of the first eateries to open along Fulton Street, doing so about four years before the Van Andel Arena opened — an event that led to a rash of new restaurants and taverns springing up near Fulton Street. The new eatery will break some new ground, too, as it will be a place where smoking won’t be allowed.

Gendler is optimistic that the new bistro will stand on its own as a solid daytime stop and will also help to keep the nighttime traffic moving at San Chez.

“I’m hoping so. Anytime that San Chez is slow is when we’re trying to complement with the new space. Tapas and lunch in the one- to two-hour grazing-through-the-menu concept tends to scare people off at lunch. So that’s why over there we’re going to focus on low-cost sandwiches, soups and salads,” he said.

“When we’re on a wait at San Chez, whether it be for an event night or Friday or Saturday night, we can accommodate all the people that want to come in and that is when that space will be slower”           

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