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Owner Behind Now-Defunct Bistro Asking for License Transfer

The Birmingham Planning Board voted to postpone discussion of the bistro license transfer request from Mario Gojcaj, who hopes to open a new bistro on Hamilton Row.

The chef and owner behind the now-defunct Cole Street Kitchen project is looking for another chance to open a restaurant in Birmingham.

Mario Gojcaj has outlined plans to open the bistro MI Kitchen at 327 Hamilton Row. To do so, Gojcaj and his new partner, Bujar Mamuslari, is seeking approval from the Birmingham City Commission to transfer the to his new establishment.

Those plans will have to wait a bit longer, though: during its Wednesday night meeting, the Birmingham Planning Board voted to postpone its discussion on the issue to Feb. 15, citing the need for more time to review the application with the city attorney.

“We want to make sure things are in order,” Planning Board Chairman Robert Boyle said, noting “problems (with the application) are emerging by the day.”

City commissioners approved Gojcaj’s first request for one of Birmingham’s two annual bistro licenses in December 2010. At the time, Gojcaj sought to open the Cole Street Kitchen at 2010 Cole St.

Birmingham issues two bistro licenses per year, according to the city’s 2007 bistro ordinance. A bistro is defined as a small boutique restaurant with no more than 65 seats indoors as well as outdoor dining.

However, plans for Cole Street Kitchen fell apart. In February 2011, Assistant Police Chief Mark Clemence confirmed that Gojcaj tried to sell the bistro license on Craigslist for $35,000.

According to a report in Downtown Publications, Gojcaj took down the listing and told police that he was trying to recoup some of his costs. Gojcaj is now working as a chef at — which is owned by Mamuslari — in Grosse Pointe Woods. Together, the pair have created MB LLC to open MI Kitchen.

In plans presented to the Planning Board on Wednesday, MI Kitchen would offer a contemporary dining experience featuring an open kitchen that allows patrons to experience the cooking process. The restaurant would sell lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.

The space on Hamilton Row, formerly the home of Topz, is currently empty.

Planning Director Jana Ecker said city staff is working with city attorney Tim Currier to review the legality of the license transfer. Since the bistro license in question has already been approved, it falls outside of the city’s rules about the two licenses approved each year (the city has already ) Since plans for Cole Street Kitchen fell through in early 2011, however, Gojcaj's bistro license has remained unused.

However, the report from the Planning Department noted that the city will consider several factors when deciding whether to approve the transfer, including the applicant’s demonstrated ability to finance the proposed project and the applicant's track record with the city.

The Feb. 15 meeting will likely be held at the , Ecker said, with the final location to be finalized in coming weeks.

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