There are no plans to reopen Thursday’s Bar and Bistro, a Crescent St. landmark for nearly 50 years, and the building that houses the restaurant could be sold to condo developers in coming months.
The Ragueneau family, which owns the building, confirmed Friday it’s looking to move on from the restaurant business and already has a handful of potential buyers interested in the building for condo purposes.
“I think Thursday’s, unfortunately, ends here,” said Torrance Ragueneau, who took over the business from his father Bernard in 2014.
“Times have changed, downtown has changed,” Ragueneau continued. “The interested buyers aren’t interested in the restaurant business, they’re looking for prime real estate in downtown Montreal.”
Thursday’s abruptly closed down earlier this week, only hours after ushering in the New Year with scores of customers.
The restaurant had been sold to Chris-Ann Nakis, whose family owns several other restaurants around Montreal, a little more than a year ago.
The sudden closing put nearly 100 employees out of a job without notice, leading to former staff criticizing how Nakis handled the situation.
On Friday, Ragueneau said the Nakis family bought the business and signed a promise to purchase the building in 2018. The deal was supposed to close in early December, but plans changed.
“I couldn’t come to an arrangement to buy the whole building the way I had wanted to,” Nakis said this week. According to Montreal’s property assessment roll, the building had a value of roughly $10.5 million in 2018.
On Thursday, Nakis told the Montreal Gazette she believed the restaurant would be reopened “very soon,” but Ragueneau said that isn’t in the plans.
“We have no intention of continuing it as a restaurant or bar as it has been for the last 47 years,” he said. “We’re ready to sell the building and move on to other things.”
Ragueneau said the potential buyers have expressed interest in turning the building into condos, but said he does believe certain facades on Crescent St. are protected by heritage laws, which could complicate matters.
The Crescent Street Merchants Association did not return the Montreal Gazette’s request for comment on Friday. The association’s president, Steve Siozios, told CBC Montreal there are two associations protecting the building for heritage reasons.
Though Thursday’s has been a landmark of Crescent St. since the 1970s, this week was not the first time it appeared as though it was closing for good.
In 2012, Bernard Ragueneau had said he received an offer to sell the building to make way for a new, $150 million hotel-residential-commercial complex.
The building was slated for demolition and a final dinner was held to honour the business, but the project fell through and never came to be. The restaurant then closed for 18 months to allow for renovations and was re-opened under Torrance Ragueneau.
The Ragueneau family finally sold the restaurant to Nakis in 2018. Nakis said this week she tried to bring the business back to what it once was, but couldn’t do so.
“We couldn’t make a go of it,” she said. “We tried hard but hard wasn’t good enough.”
Ragueneau said his family’s decision to leave Thursday’s behind was never one that was taken lightly — “it was his baby,” he said of his father, who’s now in poor health — but years of seeing Crescent St. change made it clear they made the right choice.
“The parking, the construction, the changing laws,” he said. “It’s not the same as it once was. Instead of fighting against the movement, we’re accepting it and moving on.”