Potential Bon Appetit buyer plans end to music, alcohol

Tim Sturrock

If the possible sale of Bon Appetit goes through, the Dinkytown music venue and restaurant could take on a daytime atmosphere well into the night.

A potential buyer who said he would end live music and alcohol sales, applied Wednesday for a new restaurant license for the 14th Avenue location.

Jeff Sliter, the prospective buyer, said he is still negotiating the deal and its terms remain uncertain.

“With alcohol you have problems; kids have had fights in there,” Sliter said. “I don’t want those kinds of problems.”

And with alcohol will go the music. Sliter said it’s unlikely people will go to a music venue without alcohol because they “go hand in hand.”

He said he wants a nighttime atmosphere similar to Bon Appetit’s current daytime atmosphere. He doesn’t plan on changing the menu but said he might redecorate.

If all goes as planned, Sliter will assume ownership Feb.1.

However, a Minneapolis Licensing and Regulatory Services employee said applications normally take two to six weeks to get approved. Sliter said it might be as late as March before the restaurant changes hands, unless the city is willing to expedite his application.

Samir Elkhoury, Bon Appetit’s current owner, said he hopes to buy a venue three times larger in Northeast Minneapolis, although he wouldn’t disclose the location.

Elkhoury said this new location is his main motivation, not the Dinkytown Business Association, which has raised objections to fliers bands have posted for the venue and crowds that have hung out in front of the restaurant during and after shows.

In late October, Elkhoury said he agreed to cancel a show after fellow business owners objected to its advertisement.

Elkhoury said these problems are his only regret during his time in Dinkytown.

Joe Holland, who booked shows for two years at Bon Appetit, said he’s been receiving e-mails from people who think poor revenue is causing the sale and want to help out in some way.

“I don’t know what to say. I don’t fully understand it,” he said.

Holland said he believes pressure from the DBA has something to do with the sale in addition to the reasons Elkhoury gave.

Although Sliter said the deal could be delayed, Holland said Elkhoury has not told him to book shows in February.

Holland said the loss would leave a void in a lot of people’s lives. He said he hopes Elkhoury’s plan for a new business will work out soon, because Bon Appetit is one of the few places in Minneapolis where unestablished bands can get a gig.

Bon Appetit’s music variety
distinguished it from other venues, Holland said. “Bon Appetit has always been willing to try anything once.”

Hip-hop, punk, metal, Christian rock, jazz, have all found a place there, he said.

Dan Zielske, president of the Dinkytown Business Association, said it would be unfortunate for Dinkytown if the live music leaves.

“I like Samir, and I like what he’s been doing in Dinkytown, putting Dinkytown on the map,” Zielske said.

He said aside from an issue four years ago about hosting amplified bands without proper licensing, the DBA hasn’t had any problems with Bon Appetit.

Zielske said there is a perception the DBA is out to get people, which he said is not true.

The DBA has taken issue with people hanging out after shows, loitering and littering, but these discussions weren’t specific to Bon Appetit.

Elkhoury said he has no hard feelings and would miss seeing the customers he has met at the restaurant in his eight years as owner. He said he would continue to visit the restaurant after the sale.

“My heart is going to stay here,” he said.

Tim Sturrock welcomes comments at
[email protected]