Taste of Ethiopia, a new Birmingham restaurant coming to 183 N. Old Woodward, received unanimous city commission approval at their meeting on Monday, April 23, to move forward to the planning board in their application for a bistro liquor license.
“Usually, we see bistro application October 1,” said planning director Jana Ecker. “This past October, we didn't have any bistros apply.”
When less than two bistro applications are approved for a calendar year, there can be a spring screening for bistro applicants, Ecker explained, with April 1 the deadline. This spring, there was only one applicant, Taste of Ethiopia.
Meskerem Gebreyohannes, owner of the restaurant, which also has a location in Southfield, told commissioners she has over 20 years of experience in restaurants in Michigan and Toronto.
“I have first-hand experience cooking, serving, handling liquor and financial,” she said. “I have been in Southfield for 12 years, with a liquor license. I am very excited to be here.”
In her application, she explained that “Serving health conscious Ethiopian cuisine where the focus is not solely on the incredible food but an opportunity to create a cultural experience that will transport customers and provide them with authentic Ethiopian traditions and history without ever leaving Birmingham...The ambiance will feature hand carved Ethiopian chairs, traditional art work, and custom woven Ethiopian baskets.”
As for why she wants a liquor license, Gebreyohannes responded, “As you know, the rent in Birmingham is not cheap, and having a liquor license will help.”
Commissioner Rackeline Hoff asked if her she planned to open the restaurant with or without the bistro license, and Gebreyohannes said she would, in June or July, and that she already has a signed lease.
Commissioner Mark Nickita asked if the restaurant was part of a chain. “I see a New York address. Toronto? Is this independent?”
“The New York restaurant is mine – run by my son,” she responded. She said she no longer has the Toronto restaurant since she moved to Michigan, and has closed an Eastern Market outpost.
“I think this may be a wonderful opportunity, but perhaps you open and submit a more complete application in October,” Hoff said.
“I think that's part of the due diligence of the planning board,” commissioner Carroll DeWeese countered. “I think it's unique.”
“I'm going to move this forward. It's not to evaluate (now), it's to be a very simple overview,” said commissioner Stuart Sherman. “It's taking the place of a restaurant that's closed (New Bangkok Thai Bistro), so it's not taking the place of something else.”