A local company is reopening two of its restaurants and gearing up to convert a third into a new concept by this fall.
Grand Rapids-based Essence Restaurant Group said it will welcome patrons back inside to dine at The Green Well, 924 Cherry St. SE, on June 15 and Bistro Bella Vita, 44 Grandville Ave. SW, Suite 100, on June 23.
Preparations also are underway for a late-summer announcement of a new concept at the former Grove restaurant location.
Since May 1, the location has been operating as a pop-up takeout place called Jimmy Berger’s Gourmet Chicken, which closed Sunday. Essence plans to announce a new full-service concept for the space later this summer with an opening date set for fall 2020.
James Berg, managing partner of Essence, said in his 30 years of restaurant industry experience, he has never seen such a tumultuous time. Though many regional and national restaurants had to close or pivot to survive the pandemic, Berg said he and the Essence leadership team committed to ending the year strong.
“To all of our incredible guests that have supported our brands, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Without your passion and support, we could have easily thrown in the towel, as this has been incredibly trying on everyone at Essence,” Berg said.
Here are the plans for Essence’s brands:
The Green Well
East Hills restaurant The Green Well will hold three days of reservation-only, limited-seating dining from 3-10 p.m. June 11 to June 13. The establishment will be closed June 14 to prepare for a full reopen starting June 15. At that time, The Green Well will return to its normal operating hours of 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, with happy hour 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Daily specials also will return June 15:
Monday: Mac and cheese and $15 bottles of wine
Tuesday: Nachos and $5 margaritas
Wednesday: Grilled cheese and $3 drafts
Thursday: KVB and low- and zero-proof cocktails
Sunday: Brunch all day
Bistro Bella Vita
Fine dining restaurant Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids will have three days of soft-opening events with limited-seating, reservation-only dining from 4-10 p.m. June 18 to June 20. Bistro will be closed June 21 and 22 in preparation for normal operations starting June 23. At that time, Bistro will be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and 4-10 p.m. Saturday. Daily happy hour specials will run 3-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Jimmy Berger’s Gourmet Chicken Pop Up
After closing March 16 as the award-winning Grove restaurant, Essence leaders decided to turn the building at 919 Cherry St. SE into a temporary pop-up eatery called Jimmy Berger’s Gourmet Chicken, which opened for takeout orders May 1.
“We enjoyed the experience of trying the pop-up concept and remain grateful to everyone who supported us through the pandemic, but now it’s time we get back to ensuring The Green Well and Bistro can be full-service again,” Berg said. “We are excited to offer our community full-service dining again.”
Berg said the swift opening and closing of Jimmy Berger’s reflects today’s “quick-moving food-service industry” as well as the “thought leadership and innovation” of Essence as a company.
“We know that taking risks puts us in a vulnerable position, but the outpouring of support we received during this pandemic reminded me that this market is for us, and we owe guests and followers transparency and honesty; we know they want to see us succeed,” he said. “We’ve had to make some hard adjustments, but we’re always reaching for new, unique ways to serve this market.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, The Green Well changed to a carryout and online ordering model. Essence leaders said it was so successful they plan to continue to emphasize carryout and online ordering once the restaurant returns to full-service operations.
As required by the Kent County Health Department, the state of Michigan and CDC guidelines, Bistro Bella Vita and The Green Well will follow “strict COVID-19 safety precautions,” including physical distancing after reopening for full-service dining, Essence said.
Bistro’s large indoor dining room offers an advantage, as it can “easily” accommodate guests while allowing safe distancing between tables, the company said.
The Green Well has expanded its patio space to accommodate the 6-foot rule.
“We intend to do everything possible to protect our guests, and (we) ask in return that our guests be mindful of our policies to protect our team,” Berg said. “If we work together, these precautions and physical distancing requirements will allow us to be social once again.”
Berg said Essence’s executive chef Jeremy Paquin will work with Dan Blanchard, head chef of Bistro, to “elevate” Bistro’s modern French and Italian cuisine ahead of Bistro’s reopening.
Tristan Walczewski, Bistro’s general manager and beverage manager, will oversee the service team and wine program.