Just a little more than a year into business, the quirky Zenith restaurant in New Center is shutting its doors. Restaurant owners Melissa and Robert Jasper made their announcement early Sunday morning on Facebook. In comments on the post, the couple notes that the four-month summer off-season at The Fisher Theater has posed a major challenge.
The Jasper’s moved to Detroit after receiving an offer to open a restaurant rent-free in the historic Fisher Building. Still, six-months into opening, the couple acknowledged that business at the spacious tiki-themed restaurant and bar was sluggish. Last winter, the couple further expanded into the basement of The Fisher, opening a heavy metal karaoke space called The Wrectory. Eater has reached out to the Jaspers for comment. The Zenith will close August 23.
Update, 08/17, 10:12 a.m.: Things "got off on a bad foot" from the start, Robert Jasper tells Eater. He and wife Melissa initially signed a lease with the Fisher Building believing that it would be up to 97 percent occupancy when they opened. However, the building never delivered on this promise. Likewise, the restaurant lacked a bar during its first five months in business due to a slow licensing process. "We lost a lot of business" he says. "It’s sort of like half a restaurant without any alcohol."
The Fisher posed other challenges as well. Unlike Midtown, the New Center area lacks significant foot traffic to sustain a full-service restaurant, but during theater nights the The Zenith would experience huge surges of customers. "It’s a very unnatural thing in the restaurant business for everyone to rush in the door at the exact same time," he adds. A perception that the area lacks parking as well as M1-Rail construction also contributed to the Jaspers decision to shutter their tiki restaurant.
Moving forward, the couple plan to stay in Detroit operating an antiques and estate sale business and are considering getting into home restoration (Robert has experience in construction). Robert doesn't rule out the possibility that they'll open another restaurant sometime down the road, but they have no plans right now. The Zenith will go out "with a bang" August 23 with one final Tiki Brunch.