La Belle Vie was the standard-bearer. It was. I had some of the best meals of my life there, and I’ll never forget the anniversary dinner where the power went out and Tim McKee comes rushing in, he and Mike DeCamp still prepared an awesome meal for us without power. I’ll cherish the night we brought our sons to the lounge to eat the tribute menu for Solera. And the many times at the bar where we met new friends. LBV was our go-to: need a late night cocktail? An incredible dessert? A beautiful glass of wine? A snack that would stimulate every taste bud?
No doubt there are dozens of reasons why La Belle Vie is closing – Tim’s comments about the minimum wage hike and the proposed Working Families Agenda got a lot of play from those looking for an ideological angle, but in my view this is what really is going on:
- We have more high quality restaurant choices than ever before
- Service at La Belle Vie has slipped over the past few years
- Losing Bill Summerville at the front of house was a big deal
- The cost of running La Belle Vie is extremely high (staff, food, and flatware/silverware)
- Fewer people are looking for a high-end-feeling fine dining experience.
I have no doubt that increased costs from new regulations like a minimum wage hike or the health care bill or the city telling restaurants how they have to do sick time or schedules are all factors, but those costs sink restaurants on the edge, not restaurants that are thriving. (Granted, many restaurants are on the edge, as Stephanie March explains.)
To prove my point about increased competition: look at these fairly new restaurants that have received 4-star reviews from Rick Nelson in the Star Tribune. All of them opened after La Belle Vie arrived in Minneapolis in 2005.
- Spoon and Stable, 2015 review
- Brasserie Zentral, 2014
- Heyday, 2014
- Travail, 2014
- Burch Steak & Pizza Bar, 2013
- Butcher & The Boar, 2012
- Bachelor Farmer, 2011
- Meritage, 2011
- Heartland, 2011
- Piccolo, 2010
- Bar La Grassa, 2009
Those are the 4-stars. Now let’s look at the 3 1/2 stars just from 2015:
I’d add my own top tier restaurants to this list:
That’s 18 restaurants that compete with La Belle Vie – all are new within the last ten years, and almost all would be on my radar for a birthday or anniversary or celebration of a promotion. Most of them end up being similar in cost to what I would spend at La Belle Vie, but with a more casual feel. What does this say about La Belle Vie? Share your thoughts below.
My thought is this: Thank you. Thank you to the many great servers I’ve met at La Belle Vie, the great bartenders, the cooks, the chefs, and the friends. Ten years in Minneapolis, nearly 18 years overall is a hell of a run.