, a native of France and the owner of Francois' Seafood
and Steak House in downtown Kalamazoo, is considering the idea of opening a second restaurant downtown and is vying for one of the special downtown licenses.
Each costs $600 in state fees, a bargain compared to the cost of buying an existing, traditional "Class C" liquor license -anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 or more.
A Class C license allows for the sale of beer, wine and spirits for on-premise consumption.
It is what most taverns and restaurants have.
The process of getting one, however, has been, "how shall I say, a pain in the neck," Moyet
expects the application process, which goes through the city commission before going to the state, to take at least six months, if all goes well.
And there is no guarantee that it will.
"Here you are coming with a project that will be beneficial for the city," he
said, "and there is nothing done to make things happen fast enough."
Downtown areas, including Kalamazoo's, are each eligible for only two of the special licenses.
The licenses are intended to spur economic development.
In Kalamazoo's case, one of those has already been granted to Food Dance Cafe, which recently opened for dinner and now offers wine and beer to its patrons.
, therefore, is competing with other potential downtown proprietors for one license.
efforts are worthwhile - despite the questionable odds - because of the huge difference in price between the special license and a traditional license.
Sirs Reynaud and Moyet
lay a table with rich and delicate food, Game has the honor, particularly Royal Hare.
grew up in Charentes and does not hide his
pride while getting exclusive congratulations for meat bought in Vienne and whose safe origin he
Surprisingly, Francois Moyet owner of Francois' Seafood & Steak House, 116 Portage Road agrees wholeheartedly.
But, unlike the grousers, who imagine that they would dine out regularly and with cosmopolitan flair if only there were sufficient dinning establishments worthy of their patronage, Moyet
doesn't just sit at home
just plans to open a second restaurant downtown soon.
And he has taken an active role in the newly formed Downtown Kalamazoo Merchant Association, a group of 70 merchants who are working on projects to promote the downtown.
Not that things have exactly been moribund.
For 1998, business at Francois'
increased 58 percent from the year before.
So far this year, business is up 59 percent.
Should things continue at this rate, next year Francois'
would be looking at a Ruthian 60, making Moyet
the Mark McGwire of area restaurateurs.
But success has made Moyet
neither complacent ("I want to keep growing and growing and booming," he
says) nor protective of his
On the contrary, he
wants more competition-the closer, the better.\
"More restaurants will attract even more people," he
"I'm willing to have another 20 restaurants just next to me, and things will happen, absolutely."
Fearless words, but consider this: Before moving to Kalamazoo five years ago with his
wife, a Kalamazoo native, Moyet
owned and operated three successful restaurants in Paris, where the concentration of fine eateries my be higher than anywhere on earth.
doesn't dream of turning Kalamazoo into a small, midwestern version of Paris.
He'll be satisfied with challenging that cultural mecca of Michigan - Ann Arbor.
"My dream here is to have downtown Kalamazoo become a second Ann Arbor, like a downtown Ann Arbor," he
"We have potential we have exactly the same economic and cultural possibilities.
It's just a matter of making things happen."
concedes that Kalamazoo lacks Ann Arbor's population base.
says a more important factor is visionary leaders.
Downtown Ann Arbor now has about 15 restaurants, he
says, because in the 1980s a smart marketing group called Venture Inc.
took a risk and with an all-out effort to successfully locate restaurants throughout their downtown property holdings.
"And they did it," Moyet
gets five or six applicants a day, because young people pass the word that it's a good place to work.
listens to their suggestions on possible improvements and invests them with responsibility.
Like Kavanaugh, Moyet
has a times been frustrated over licensing.
hopes to acquire a liquor license for a second restaurant in the next six months.
The state limits the number of licenses to one for each 1,500 persons who live in a township, he
says, and they're all sold out for Kalamazoo and Portage.
About the only way to get one is to buy an existing license from someone who no longer needs it.
"Unfortunately Michigan has a strong political board for a license - they simply don't do anything to release some more", he
"We know that more restaurant industry awakes the depressed downtown, so I would say for another 10 liquor licenses, downtown Kalamazoo would be wonderful."
However, an increase in the number of licenses "is just not going to happen until Lansing decides to let it go more - and that is not going to happen, either," he
One restaurant that, in the tradition of liberte, egalite and the fraternite of smokers, upholds the right to light one up is Francois'
Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who comes from France, where people smoke Gitanes - unfiltered cigarette so strong they make Camels seem like Virginia Slims - Moyet
does provide a dining room for smokers, which is separated from two other rooms for non-smokers.
"I come from the land of the human right, and I think one basic human right is to decide if you want to smoke," Moyet
"I'm not here to tell them, 'You cannot smoke in my restaurant.' I'm selling pleasure, and how frustrating for a customer if I tell him, 'No, you can't smoke here.'"
Whereas the restaurant industry, by large, has been edging away from allowing smoking, exceptions have gone retro by becoming cigar bars and resurrecting other indulgences of yesteryear.
is one area example: Two years ago Moyet started a martini menu, and, he
says, "we were cigar friendly in this bar way before the cigar started to be big in town.
Last summer, he
tore out a window to open a French patio, allowing cigar smokers a place to puff contentedly as they contemplate the pub patrons across the street at Olde Peninsula.
Because the restaurant is not in Chicago or New York, Moyet
has tried to "Americanize," as he
Since opening in February 1997, he
has come up with a new idea to appeal to a market segment about every three months, and, like Bravo's Hagen, he
offers wine tastings and cooking classes.
By working 15-hour days for the first two years, he
has put his
personal imprint on the restaurant, he
says, so that now Francois' has become the place to go and has to turn people away on weekends.
Thus Francois' image is inseparable from its owner.
But restaurants that derive their theme artificially from a corporate concept, such as Hard Rock Cafe, are losing ground to the small independents, Moyet
Last year, for the first time in a decade, more independent restaurants opened than chains, by 5.2 percent, he
"Planet Hollywood and these big chains are losing customers," Moyet
The decor lends a feeling of a vanished America, but traces of our roots are being uncovered in downtowns across the country, says Moyet
, who last summer went on a cross-country swing that took him to Austin, Phoenix, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and points in between.
Kalamazoo, whose historic Globe Casket Building is being restored, is right in step.
"The big trend is, people are coming back in (to) the historic downtowns all over the country - it's everywhere," Moyet
"Ten years ago, nobody wanted to have a restaurant in a warehouse.
Now they want that more than anything else, to go to this old building with hardwood floor, brick walls, this old antique ceiling, and to have the excitement of the city back in business."
So if area restaurateurs so seek to carve out a niche or define themselves with a theme, it would seem that they might be better off avoiding costly extravagant gestures like a jetliner crashed through the dining room and concentrate on more indigenous touches that reflect the character of the owner and the place.
says, "You can't really run a restaurant if you don't put your heart inside."