It's been a short run. Just five months since La Dulce restaurant moved from Royal Oak to downtown Detroit, the Spanish tapas spot turned elevated Mexican eatery is calling it quits.
La Dulce co-owner Luis Negrete said he and his staff were ill-equipped to meet the demands of running a restaurant inside a hotel and its expansive food operations. In July, La Dulce moved from a street-side storefront in downtown Royal Oak to a 7,000-square-foot location inside the Crowne Plaza hotel downtown.
"The very long hours of operation and the demands of being in a hotel are much greater than what we could tackle," Negrete said. "I think the direction that the hotel wants to take and the direction that we wanted to take (were) very far from each other."
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Negrete said business was doing much better than in Royal Oak and that economics weren't a driving factor for closing the restaurant. A big challenge was appealing to two different clientele: the La Dulce loyalists who wanted a unique dining experience like the one offered for almost two years in Royal Oak and the throngs of convention-goers and downtown visitors who craved a more approachable menu and quick bites.
"I opened this place because I loved it," Negrete said. "I loved coming to work and the hospitality industry, but if I can't be here and do it the way I wanted to do it then why continue?"
Ana and Luis Negrete are co-owners along with Juan Carlos Negrete (not pictured) of La Dulce restaurant, which is closing after just five months operating out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Detroit. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)
In addition to running the restaurant along with his brother and chef Juan Carlos, Negrete's main line of work is in the automotive supply industry. That business is growing, he said, and the demands of running the hotel restaurant on the side proved to be too much.
La Dulce changed its menu in late-September from the Spanish-inspired tapas the restaurant was known for (and celebrated for when it was named No. 7 on the Free Press' Best New Restaurants list in 2016) to an elevated traditional Mexican concept with many of its items benefiting earthquake relief efforts in Mexico, where the Negretes hail from.
That new Mexican menu was supposed to stay in place at least through the end of the year, but it won't get that far. La Dulce will close its doors Sunday.
La Dulce restaurant is closing after just five months operating out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Detroit. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)
"We had at least a year contract that would be renewable automatically every year if things went well," Negrete said. "But both hotel management and myself had a conversation and we decided there was absolutely no reason to keep anybody involved that wasn't wanting to, so we just decided to simply part ways. At this point, I have absolutely no plans to do anything."
Restaurants have struggled to take hold in the Crowne Plaza since it re-opened in 2013. The hotel's elevated restaurant Top of the Pontch shuttered earlier this year and was converted to a private events space.
Negrete said the hotel management would debut its own restaurant in the La Dulce space following his restaurant's closure, but that could not be immediately confirmed. A message left for Crowne Plaza management was not returned before publication.
La Dulce: 2 Washington, Detroit; 313-262-6220 and ladulce.com.
Contact Mark Kurlyandchik: 313-222-5026 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mkurlyandchik and Instagram: mkurlyandchik.
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