Last week’s big restaurant news was the unexpected announcement that hit Mile End restaurant Hôtel Herman would be closing — but details around the closure and what might become of the restaurant were scarce.
But since then, Eater has spoken with one of the restaurant’s three principals, Dominic Goyet, to get some insight. Goyet explains that due to a set-up where Hôtel Herman was actually subletting its St-Laurent Boulevard location, the restaurateurs had mere weeks to figure out a situation that wouldn’t see them evicted on March 1.
“I got wind of that in the beginning of January and for three weeks, have been trying to work out something that would allow us to stay...just closing would have been a real catastrophe.”
Goyet and the two other owners, Marc-Alexandre Mercier and Ariane Lacombe, attempted to negotiate directly with the landlord. Public records reveal that her name is Katerina Protopapas.
“We had to deal with a lot of silence. Trying to get hold of her was really, really something, she wouldn’t want to talk with us, she didn’t want to meet with us. She just was not available.”
She told Goyet “‘I want the place vacant.’ When I asked why, I was told ‘personal reasons.’ We had a cheap rent, and I was going to almost be able to double the rent. I asked her, ‘Madame, we could offer you that, and she didn’t even want to hear what I had to say.’”
Despite the order to vacate, Goyet says he doesn’t think the prime location on the Main will stay empty indefinitely after the restaurant moves out in late February.
“Something’s going to show up in this room at one point.”
Eater is attempting to track down Protopapas for comment. The prospect of the building going to developers is unlikely: while Protopapas does own other properties in Montreal, none of those are in the same area.
For Goyet, having to fire the restaurant’s staff is what hurts most.
“The worst part is getting rid of our team. That’s where the damage was most important.”
But Goyet admits that the support since the announcement has been heartening.”
“It’s never good to be kicked out — it feels like you don’t have resources to be able to stay anywhere in a commercial lease world. It’s screwed up you know, but very quickly we had a wave of compassion for people.”
“We’re happy that our life there never went down, and we’re getting out of there with our heads up.”
For the hordes who appreciated Hôtel Herman’s modern, French-slash-new-Nordic influenced food and monochrome interior, one big question might linger: will they set up shop elsewhere? Goyet doesn’t have a final answer to that yet.
“It seems like a very natural thing to find another spot and do it again. But would it be called Hôtel Herman or something else? We have a nice opportunity to rethink the [mood] of the place and correct the things we might have done better, but right now … we want to take a bit of time.”
“I think something is going to come up, sometime not too far away.”
Goyet was clear on one future plan, though: the Hôtel Herman trio are going to put more time into brewpub Réservoir, which they took over in November, including a new lunch program, and beefed-up opening hours.