GRAND RAPIDS — Cindy Schneider was ready to apply for a small business loan in March 2020 to open a new restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids when COVID-19 put her plans on hold.
More than a year later, Schneider has resumed work on renovations and completing the menu for the casual seafood restaurant Beacon Corner Bar, which is expected to open later this year. Beacon Corner Bar will be located in the same building as one of Schneider’s other restaurants, San Chez Bistro, at 38 W. Fulton St.
“We’re going to have some fun and introduce Grand Rapids to casual dining seafood,” Schneider told MiBiz. “No white linens, we’ll have rolled out paper. We have some really great recipes and have some really talented chefs.”
Securing financing for a new restaurant concept during the pandemic was challenging, but Schneider — like many small business owners — had picked up the skill of applying for COVID-19 relief loans for her two other restaurants, San Chez Bistro and ROAM by San Chez.
Locating Beacon in the same building as San Chez Bistro will also mean less overhead costs than typically come with opening new restaurants, she said.
Beacon Corner Bar, which will seat about 100 people, was half-built with all of the kitchen equipment purchased before the industry came to a grinding halt in early 2020, Schneider said.
“We restored a lot in the building and have the original tin ceilings, doors and windows, and were able to restore half of the wooden floor,” Schneider said. “It’s an amazing corner in downtown Grand Rapids. We’re excited to have people walk in, see it and enjoy something they probably haven’t had the chance to in this community before.”
Grand Rapids-based Maxam Architecture PLLC and Pinnacle Construction Group Inc. are working on the renovations.
Schneider was raised in Long Island, N.Y., which is providing inspiration for the menu with popular coastal fare like seafood boils and clam bakes. She also plans to have a New York-style pastrami sandwich and a selection of chowders on the menu.
Schneider is aiming for a September opening — around ArtPrize 2021, which is scheduled from Sept. 16 to Oct. 4 — as renovations, menu development and staffing proceed as planned.
“We have been talking a little bit about a ghost kitchen and doing seafood boils out the door — we’ll see,” Schneider said. “It’s been such a long haul with Beacon, but we’re in no hurry. There are usually more variables you have to deal with when it comes to opening a new place, but we don’t have a lot of that; this is really a remodel for us.”
Staffing also remains an ongoing challenge for Schneider at her two current restaurants as well as Beacon Corner Bar.
She is piloting a program in which employees are given a $300 paycheck bonus if they are fully vaccinated and work at least 30 hours per week at any of the restaurants.
“What we need is to take the people that we have and get them to work 30 hours,” Schneider said. “If we had that, we would not have a job crisis. We hope that inspires other people in the business to work for us, too, because that’s a really great incentive.”
Schneider previously operated
San Chez Cafe in the future Beacon space. The cafe merged with San Chez Bistro in 2015 to accommodate space.
“Once we knew the Residence Inn project was coming across the street, we decided that real estate wasn’t being used to its full potential, which is when we came up with the Beacon Corner Bar,” Schneider said.
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