Brightmarten closes to Bonnie Brae after four years

“Our staff are lovely. We are so proud of everyone. They are mostly nice to us,” says Jared Riggs, who opened Brightmarten, at 730 South University Boulevard, with alumni Rioja and Euclid Hall, Wade Nelson, Jake Grant and Josh. Prater in 2018. But now the restaurant is preparing to close its doors after the brunch service on Sunday January 16. There is no news yet on what, if any, will replace Brightmarten.

While the Bonnie Brae neighborhood is anchored by longtime staples like the Bonnie Brae Tavern, Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, and Saucy Noodle, it has undergone a number of changes recently, including two incarnations of the Campus Lounge. Brightmarten was another, but Riggs says the restaurant was doing well its first two years in the space that housed 730 South for eighteen years. “We started to turn a corner,” he notes. “We got to know our people and had regulars, which is the lifeblood of a neighborhood restaurant.”

But in the fall of 2020, “we just couldn’t see ourselves staying open,” adds Riggs. Although the restaurant received a PPP loan, the owners used it to pay the staff immediately. When the capacity restrictions returned to 50% at the end of October 2020, the decision was made to close Brightmarten for the winter. “It was sad, like a cafeteria” with that capacity, he said. “There is nothing fun about a sad, quiet place.”

Click to enlarge

Inside Brightmarten.

Danielle Lirette

Winter was a particularly difficult time to keep the restaurant closed; unlike other neighborhoods, October through May is generally the busiest season in Bonnie Brae, notes Riggs. “We had to live off our lean period,” he continues, which was not tenable for a company already facing major financial challenges.

“After our reopening in May [2021], we were never able to recruit staff until the end. Everything becomes more expensive, sales do not rebound, ”continues Riggs. “We were just bleeding money. Combined with the fact that COVID cases among employees were frequent, the decision to close the doors permanently was imminent.

“The past two years have been tough, but the past two months have been like a pressure cooker,” admits Riggs. The costs of everything from food to take-out packaging have risen so rapidly that Brightmarten has had to implement three price changes in just four months. And even as the restaurant enters its final days, several staff members have declared themselves ill; As a result, the restaurant may need to cut back on its final lunch services.

“We have a great staff, but not enough,” says Riggs.

Brightmarten plans to be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday for its final service – but check out social media for the most recent hours.


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