Plans are moving forward for what could be Birmingham's newest steakhouse, after the Birmingham Planning Board passed along plans for the Stoney River Steakhouse, which is set to replace the soon-to-close Max & Erma's at 250 Merrill St.
During their Wednesday night meeting, the Planning Board recommended the approval of Stoney River's final site plan and their application for a Special Land Use Permit. Plans will now go to the City Commission for final approval at their Nov. 26 meeting.
While the Stoney River Steakhouse will be new to Birmingham, it won't be new for American Blue Ribbon Holdings, the company that owns Max & Erma's as well as the chain of Stoney River Steakhouses', O'Charley's and other restaurant brands.
There are currently 30 Stoney Rivers across the country, with the majority near their original restaurant in Atlanta. The steakhouse in Birmingham would be the first in Michigan.
According to a representative from Blue Ribbon Holdings, Stoney River Steakhouses are priced lower than most steakhouses and decorated in the relaxed style of rustic hunting lodges, with natural stone fireplaces and high, timbered ceilings.
There were will be about 220 seats inside the new renovated restaurant with an additional 20 seats at the bar. Original plans for the restaurant included sidewalk seating, though the company has since decided to hold off on outdoor seating until the restaurant is up and running. The restaurant will also include valet parking.
According to the Blue Ribbon representative, Max & Erma's has outlived its time in Birmingham.
"Max & Erma's isn't obviously paying the freight and has gotten a little outdated in that location," he said. "We believe this restaurant will be more appropriate for the area."
Planning Board members were in generally in support of the plans, though several noted that they were anxious to see outdoor dining at that location.
"Outdoor dining has become a motif of Birmingham," Planning Board chairman Robin Boyle said. "It would be a same if this restaurant didn't pursue that same line. It would really enliven Merrill."
Planning Director Jane Ecker agreed. "You almost can't compete in this city without outdoor dining," she said.
In the end, the plans passed 6-1, with Planning Board member Janelle Boyce voting against because of the lack of outdoor dining. According to a representative from Blue Ribbon, once they receive approval from the city commission, they hope to begin construction as soon as possible. The original goal was to open in April 2013.
Correction: Stoney River Steakhouse came before the City Commission on Nov. 26, not Jan. 26 as previously indicated.