Stoney River Steakhouse Receives City Commission Approval
Commissioners pass along plans for a new steakhouse to replace Max & Erma's Monday night. Meanwhile, residents complain about losing one of Birmingham's few family-friendly restaurants on Facebook.
Plans continue to move forward for the proposed Stoney River Steakhouse, which received City Commission approval Monday night to renovate and move into the former Max & Erma's spot at 250 Merrill St.
Overall, there was little discussion among city commissioners about what is looking to be Birmingham's newest steakhouse. Commissioners passed the group's Special Land Use Permit and final site plan 6-0, with Commissioner Stuart Sherman absent.
This will be the first Stoney River Steakhouse in Michigan, company representatives said Monday. The company is owned by American Blue Ribbon Holdings, the parent company that owns Max & Erma's, O'Charley's and several other restaurant brands.
There are currently 30 Stoney Rivers across the country, with the majority located in southern states, including Georgia and Tennessee.
Similar to what was presented to the Birmingham Planning Board last month, Stoney River's president Fred Timm told city commissioners Monday that his restaurants offer high-quality service and hospitality but at a lower price point than most steakhouses. Timm said while menu prices vary by location, entrees are in the $35-$40 range.
The restaurants are typically decorated in the relaxed style of rustic hunting lodges, with natural stone fireplaces and high, timbered ceilings. According to sample menus at www.stoneyriver.com, the restaurant offers a signature coffee-cured filet mignon with entrees ranging from Szechuan salmon to a double-cut pork chop.
City Commissioner Mark Nickita reminded Timm that as a steakhouse, they aren't alone in Birmingham. Aside from the upscale Cameron's Steakhouse and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, Birmingham recently welcomed another steakhouse chain to town earlier this year. Located almost a stone's throw away from the future site of Stoney River, Hyde Park Steakhouse opened in the former Forte location (and has since expanded to the former Zuma Coffee House spot) in July.
On the Birmingham Patch Facebook page, readers sounded off on Stoney River's plans, expressing their displeasure over another steakhouse moving to town.
"Dislike that Max & Erma's is closing!," said Ken Case. "How many steakhouses can a downtown area support?"
Several readers noted that while they were sad to see Max & Erma's go, they weren't necessarily surprised. According to Timm, American Blue Ribbon Holdings determined Max & Erma's had been struggling at their Birmingham location.
"We loved going to (Max & Erma's) with our kids," Amanda Larkin O'Gorman said. "However once they remodeled ... (it) seemed like the atmosphere and service went downhill. So sad!"
Other readers noted Birmingham needs fewer high-end restaurants and more places for families.
"Big mistake to go with something so trendy," noted Donna MacMurray Klein. "And no, this vegetarian is not happy. And no, losing another place where teens can go out together for a decent meal is not good for Birmingham."
According to Timm, Stoney River was originally looking at opening in April 2013 but may have to push that start date back depending on the city's plan to replace the sidewalks along Merrill next spring.
According to the plans, there will be about 220 seats inside the newly-renovated space with 20 seats at the bar. Current plans do not include outdoor dining, Timm said, as they were concerned there may not be enough waiting space inside the restaurant. The group plans to reconsider adding outdoor dining next summer. The restaurant will also include valet parking.