Despite being located at a corner in the center of one of metro Detroit's most bustling downtowns — or perhaps because of it — Royal Oak's Cantina Diablos and Red Fox English Pub are set to close. The building's previous tenant, Memphis Smoke, closed in 2010 after 16 years in business.
Eater first reported of the pending closures last week, which were initially denied by an attorney representing the owners who said, "The owners will continue to operate in Royal Oak, hopefully for years to come." That all changed on Wednesday, when the Free Press reported that on the same day the attorney issued the denial, the owners had submitted a proposal to the city of Royal Oak to close their businesses.
Instead, pending a final review, Cantina Diablos will be turned into Diamond's Steak and Seafood. Meanwhile, the rooftop Red Fox English Pub will be turned into a bar and patio called Pinky's. Both will be under the same ownership, with restauranteur Adam Merkel, who owns and runs the original Diamond's in Howell, joining as a minority owner.
The news follows other recently announced restaurant closures in Royal Oak. Earlier this month, local Italian chain Andiamo announced it was closing its Royal Oak location after 19 years, blaming a lack of parking and a dispute with their lease. Meanwhile, Blackfinn Ameripub announced it was closing after 10 years, to be replaced by Chicago-based Bar Louie.
News of the closures first came from a group representing local taxpayers and business owners called Take Back Royal Oak, who said the city "suffers another black eye resulting from the ill-conceived City Center Development," in reference to the May closure of Royal Oak's city hall parking lot to make way for construction of a new Civic Center and office building. The city also recently voted to raise parking meter rates.
Last year, property and business owners sued the city, alleging the project would be damaging to their businesses. "The City of Royal Oak government has wreaked havoc on downtown parking and businesses," the group said.
Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier denied city operations had anything to do with the closing of Andiamo and instead suggested the closure had "everything to do with the product." Regarding Cantina Diablos, Fournier told the Free Press that critics were trying to give the city a "black eye however they can."
"There's that group, Take Back Royal Oak, I guess is what they're calling themselves, spreading information that's not only completely false, but completely the opposite of the truth," Fournier said. "The owners are investing in their business because they see the growth on the horizon in Royal Oak."
A new seven-story parking deck is expected to open next year with 580 new parking spaces. But Andiamo owner Joe Vicari said he didn't think it was enough.
"Closing Andiamo Royal Oak wasn't an easy decision after 19-years in this community, but the lack of long-term parking left me no choice," said Andiamo Group President and CEO Joe Vicari. "Walking from a parking structure a few blocks away isn't a problem during good weather, unless you're disabled or elderly, but in inclement weather businesses are going to suffer, which is why I decided to cut our losses now."
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