La Coop Bistro a Vins, the highly regarded French bistro in NuLu, will close following dinner service next month on New Year’s Eve.
Say goodbye to Bobby Benjamin’s superbly finessed food, Brett Davis’s well-chosen wine list, the delicious aperitifs, and the relaxed vibe always seasoned with a dash of French sophistication.
Davis, co-owner of La Coop and Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar, delivered the news this afternoon, saying he, Benjamin and partners Michael and Steven Ton weren’t happy about the pending closure, but that they were relieved.
Its diminutive 1,500 square feet and 48 seats were amazingly time and labor intensive, Davis said, especially on Benjamin. The restaurant was holding its own financially, he added, but it was not profitable enough to warrant the effort required to maintain its first-rate status.
“La Coop is like an old car that could run forever as long as you keep tuning it,” Davis said. “The problem is it needs constant tuning.”
Especially when the ownership team would leave for Nashville to oversee its newest restaurant, Union Commons.
“We’d come back and things would need adjusting, and that would take time away from bigger things,” he said. “A French bistro concept just takes time. And we’ve got much larger projects in the works that will justify the time we’re putting into them.”
That includes the 12,000-square-foot restaurant the company will open next year in River Park Place. Davis declined to give more detail on that business or “another we’ve got coming up and will announce soon.”
Davis surely isn’t alone in calling La Coop, “my favorite restaurant in the city. Even if I didn’t own it, it still would be my favorite.”
The pace of business there was typically slow during the week, he said, but strong on weekends.
“You don’t do well enough when you have that few seats and only turn the tables only once on weekdays,” he said. “Louisville loves eating at 7 p.m., and so do I. But you need two turns every night.
“We would have to charge a much higher price point to be profitable enough for us to continue. That wasn’t going to happen.”
From now until Dec. 30, expect business as usual at La Coop.
“We’re not going to run out of everything trying to shut it down. No way,” he said.
On New Year’s Eve, however, the restaurant will close with a flourish: a four- or five-course prix fixe menu made up of guests’ favorite dishes served in its brief two-year run.
“We want to go out with a bang, enjoy it and have a good time,” he said. “We’ll say goodbye to our best customers—and we have so many good customers—and be happy it’ll end that way.”
Davis declined to say whether a replacement restaurant was in the cue, but he knows others want the space. To do well in NuLu, he said restaurant options should be casual.
“Casual dining really works well in that neighborhood, but for us, people heard ‘French bistro’ and thought formal dining,” he said. “Casual: jeans, T-shirts, relaxed, that’s where the whole market is headed. We knew La Coop fit that, but not everyone knew it.”