The corner of West 58th Street and Detroit Avenue has gone a little dark with the recent announcement of the immediate permanent closure of Spice Kitchen & Bar.
Owner and chef Ben Bebenroth announced the decision to shutter its doors earlier today in response to the ongoing coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak and statewide orders for all restaurants and bars to close its doors. Its catering business, Spice Catering Co., will stay open after a brief pause.
For the last eight years, Bebenroth explains it’s been difficult to keep the farm-to-table restaurant known for its seasonal weekly-changing menus afloat. But the recent news poses challenges and further hardship for everyone from waiters and kitchen staff to the farmers working hard to supply the restaurant with responsibly sourced food.
“We buy between $5,000-$10,000 of local product from within 150 miles every week,” he says. “We have so many farmers calling us right now with literally thousands of eggs and hundreds of pounds of vegetables — product we’re on the hook for. So, this is not easy for me to just pull the e-brake, but we have to look at it from the level of social responsibility.”
At a time when fine dining is no longer needed, Bebenroth saw this as an opportunity to close up shop, re-evaluate and hopefully re-invent itself. Spice Catering Co. will continue to plan for private special events after May, but for the next eight weeks his attention is focused on figuring out the future of the restaurant and Cleveland’s own fine-dining scene.
“It requires something drastic like this for us to really evaluate what matters anymore,” says Bebenroth. “We have to stop the globalization of food, and I think this is going to let loose unbridled enthusiasm and a renaissance of at-home manufacturing and an ownership of our livelihoods.”
That means looking to other benchmark restaurants and how they’re evolving, such as Seattle’s 70-year-old Canlis which recently converted into a bagel takeout, burger drive-thru and family meal delivery service.
“We have a future concept we already have a location scouted for, and it’s a totally different model of serving people,” says Bebenroth, noting that there’s been an exclusive partnership struck with Gordon Green in the Gordon Square Arts District and others. “It’s still being a bridge between local foods and people that need it. We’re evaluating how we’ll fit that into 5800 [Detroit Ave.] and we have some exciting ideas around it, but we’re going to take a couple weeks here on the tasks at hand and revamping and revitalizing that corner in a much bigger and better way that’s more appropriately suited to the needs of the new market.”
Read More: Spice Kitchen & Bar was named one of our Best Restaurants in 2019.