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  • By Lisa Brody

Luxe Bistro expansion due to COVID-19 sought

Birmingham's popular Luxe Bistro came before the city's planning board on Wednesday, August 26, seeking to amend its special land use permit and receive final site plan and design review approvals to expand into the adjacent former shoe store in order to enhance its functionality and add spacing between tables during the coronavirus pandemic. Planning board members unanimously supported their requests, recommending approval by the city commission. Planning director Jana Ecker explained that most changes to the exterior facade of the bistro are minimal, other than adding a new window where the door of the shoe store was. “The majority of the current interior at Luxe will remain, and the applicant is proposing to expand the kitchen and cooler area, relocate the host stand, add a new dining counter and several extra tables in the vacant retail space to the south. No additional bar space will be added, nor will the proposed layout exceed the maximum number of 65 seats for a bistro,” she said. Luxe's owners intend to add more exterior tables, from 12 seats to 50 seats, and to reduce the number of seats at the bar from 10 to five. They plan to space their interior tables out, adding tables to the entire expanded storefront. “We sense there is a necessity for a little more spacing in our restaurant. Looking forward to winter and into next spring, we think it needs to be spaced out… so that everyone feels safe,” said Joe Bongiovanni, who owns Luxe along with his brother Larry and his wife Kristin. :I think this design meets that.” He noted his father Larry, who passed away in May 2019, and started Luxe as well as adjacent restaurant Salvatore Scallopini, had been paying rent on the shoe store for many years. The family also owns Market North End across the street. “The way the business is today and the niche Luxe has made in the market here in the north side of town, it hasn't missed a beat,” Bongiovanni said. “What this design does, it allows employees to work a little harder for guests, meets the needs of carryout that I don't think is going away anytime soon. This is meant to be an adaptation of what Luxe always was.” “In the very early days, they gave us a model of what a bistro should be,” said planning board member Robin Boyle. “I'm delighted they're going to take over the shoe store and add more outdoor seating.”

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