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Posted on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 4:11 p.m.

Bennigan's near Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor to close Jan. 16; Red Robin moving in

By Paula Gardner


The Bennigan's Grill & Tavern on South State near Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor will close Jan. 16. The property's owners, mall owner Simon Property Group, leased the building to Red Robin Gourmet Burgers.

Paula Gardner |

The Bennigan's in Ann Arbor will close Jan. 16 after 28 years in its location on the eastern edge of Briarwood Mall just north of I-94.

The restaurant - part of a Michigan-based ownership group - lost its lease after the national franchise filed for bankruptcy.

"We're sad to be leaving," said Rich Boyce, director of restaurant operations for the Mt. Pleasant-based LaBelle Management. "It's been a good location there for us for years and years."

Boyce said sales at the bar and restaurant remained strong, with 2009 totals outpacing 2008.

"We were a profitable restaurant," Boyce said.

But a pending hike in the rental rate prohibited the company from continuing to operate in the location, he said. The restaurant will vacate the building by the end of January.

Boyce identified Red Robin as the next tenant that will move in.

Bennigan's has been in the 7,000-square-foot location for 28 years. LaBelle Management owned it for the past 10 years, buying it from the parent company.

But with the Bennigan's bankruptcy filing in July 2008, the lease for the building - held by the national company - was nullified. The building then reverted to the property owner.

The owner - Simon Property Group, which also owns and operates nearby Briarwood Mall - wanted to raise the rental rate, Boyce said.

"We tried working things out with the mall," he said. "But we weren't able to pay what the mall wanted."

Boyce wouldn't disclose the new asking rental rate, but real estate experts said it was likely in the $25 to $30 per square foot range. In comparison, the former Zanzibar space on South State near the University of Michigan campus was listed for $40 per square foot in mid-2009 and the former Ritz Camera building a block south of Zanzibar is listed for $35 per square foot.

Employees were notified in the fall that negotiations for Bennigan's to stay in the building weren't fruitful, Boyce said.

"We didn't feel that it would be right to keep it from them," Boyce said.

That disclosure represents a risk not often taken in the restaurant industry, Boyce said, but "many stuck with us to the end."

About 42 remained with the restaurant through this month, he said, even as many employees found other jobs.

The company considered relocating, Boyce said, "But we really couldn't find anything that we thought would work.

"... It's hard when you have the best location in the market."

The location is home to other chain restaurants, including Macaroni Grill, Max & Erma's, Olive Garden and Damon's. Independent restaurants in the vicinity include Mediterrano and El Camino Real.

LaBelle Management operates 10 Bennigan's in Michigan - the closest to Ann Arbor are in Plymouth and Howell - among the 30 restaurants it owns.

The Bennigan's Web site lists seven sites "coming soon," including three in Florida. It also lists 43 active locations in the U.S.

Neither Red Robin nor Briarwood Mall officials were available this afternoon for comment.

Meanwhile, an auction will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 21 at the restaurant to dispose of the Bennigan's furnishings and equipment. It will be run by Ann Arbor-based Braun and Helmer Auction Service.

And Bennigan's staff and customers are preparing for their farewells, Boyce said. 

"We've been encouraging customers to come in and say good-bye," he said. "... We're going to miss them."

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For more information on Bennigan's and Red Robin, visit's restaurant guide. 

Paula Gardner is Business Director at She can be contacted by email or follow her on Twitter.



Wed, Feb 24, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

I haven't been to Bennigan's since I was young enough to date college chicks. I can't imagine going there as a grown-up.


Mon, Feb 15, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

Maybe A2 needs a Hooters to offer a more "Rounded" dining experience? I do like Red Robin's food, but I do not desire the loud atmosphere offered at their restaurants. I like to have a little piece and quiet when I dine, even with the family.


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

Having grown up in Ann Arbor in the 80s and 90s this was one of my favorite restaurants. Even after getting married and moving to Toronto, my husband and I would still come down and dine at Bennigan's several times a year - visiting with family and friends, or after a football game. I have many, many happy memories there and will miss it very much.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 1:36 p.m.

More than half of the Benningan's were corporate-owned. When they filed bankruptcy, those all closed. I'm guessing that the franchisees probably saw less and less corporate support, and eventually, they'll all fade away, or change to other chains. Since corporate negotiated the lease, they may have not passed along the total cost to the franchisee, but made up the difference in the royalty agreement. Hopefully the employees will find opportunities with the new tennant. But hey, the stimulus has saved/created 2 million jobs, so no one should be out of work for much longer.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

For everyone one who is bashing Bennigans does'nt the article state that they are closing because of corpreate bankruptcy and increased rent? I did'nt read anything about it being due to lack of sales or poor food/service.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

@ d -- They did offer a vegetarian burger, I believe it was black bean. Where I live now in Florida it was one of the very rare places around to get anything vegetarian at all, but they closed ours down in 2008.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 6:51 a.m.

Man, almost a PF Chang? That's a bummer. I don't care for Red Robin at all, but since I almost never went to Bennigan's, I guess it's not really going to affect me. And yes, if I want a burger and I'm on that side of town, I'm going to Bagger Dave's and getting a side of the sweet potato fries/chips that they offer with my burger!

Patrick Haggood

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

Too bad re: PF Changs, for a franchise they have really good entrees. Except for the forays from work to welcome new staff, I can't say I'll miss Bennigans; when I lived here 25 yrs ago I didn't even know Briarwood existed.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:25 p.m.

Good news - Another location making it easier to get a Whiskey River BBQ Burger Bad news - Another location making it easier to get a Whiskey River BBQ Burger

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:54 a.m.

They did explore moving, though didn't specify which buildings were considered. (The one at State and Ellsworth is in the First Martin portfolio, and it went through zoning to be turned into a multi-tenant retail center... likely on hold until the economy turns. Here's a link: Given Bennigan's time in the building, the lease rate was likely under market - so when the lease was nullified during the bankruptcy, Simon had the chance to bring it up to market rate. It sounds like many restaurants have considered the property, which really is in a good location. (One reportedly was PF Chang's, btw) I'm still trying to reach Red Robin about whether it'll be a second location for them in the area. I suspect it is, based on what I've seen over time with chain restaurant leases. But can't say for certain yet.

UM Rocks

Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

Red Robin... YUM!!


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

LaBelle Management is a little hard to understand... A few years back they closed a popular restaurant named "Sweet Onion" in their Mount Pleasant home town. To me the place appeared to be busy enough to be profitable, yet they closed it and the building sat empty until at least a few months ago. It may still sit vacant. It seems like they lose interest in their properties, or maybe close and run if any little inconvenience like a rent increase comes along. I've visited some of their other chain locations in the state, and don't find them to be particularly well operated or maintained, so maybe their business plan is to squeeze profits out until a property is dry and then close. In the case of Bennigan's here in Ann Arbor, I wonder if LaBelle really explored the possibilities for moving to a new location. There's a similar type and sized building located just half a mile or so to the south, at the State and Ellsworth intersection. Having been vacant for a few years now too, that building should be available at a decent lease rate.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:12 a.m.

Wow, I'm surprised at the commentary here. Bennigan's may have run its course but this is a sad time, not one to be bashing the place. I'd be curious to know how many of you were around in the 80's when it was doing big business in Ann Arbor? I have fond memories of family birthday gatherings, office parties, St. Patrick's Day green beer, etc. I've always been surprised and refreshed that they lasted this long in a time when restaurants fade away as fast as they appear. They were no worse than any of these major chains and I was never once made to feel like they wanted me to eat and get out like many do today. You will be missed Bennigan's, I hope the employees losing their jobs find new employment quickly.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 10:06 a.m.

mmmm, Bagger Dave's. Now, that's how a burger should be. Yeah, Red Robin is no better that Bennigan's, is no better than Applebee's/Chili's/yada, yada. More flair! Although I will miss the occasional Monte Crisco when I'm looking to up my cholesterol.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

After 28 years there, you'd think the landlord would have cut them some slack with the rental rate - especially in this weak economy. If they didn't have another tenant lined up to take the space over, you'd have to believe the landlord would have renewed the lease at the lower rate.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

More microwaved entrees (except for the endless French Fries), yum! Waitstaff who clap and sing to you on your birthday! Want a decent burger - go to Bagger Dave's just up the road if you don't want to head in to town. Better suggestion - find a locally owed joint to patronize.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

Bennigan's was probably the worst out of the franchise-style family restaurants. (Chili's, TGIFridays, Applebee's, etc). They didn't really stand out in any particular category.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 7:58 a.m.

John Schultz- Yes, you are right! I just re-read my comment and cringed. Unfortunately, I got a phone call and when I came back my comment had been submitted, by a helpful family member, before I had tossed in the appropriate punctuation-very sorry. You are also right that Applebee's has been in two locations, I hadn't thought of that, thank you for reminding me. I am not a big fan of eating out, but bravo to Red Robin, if it is true, for opening a second restaurant in this economic climate.


Tue, Jan 12, 2010 : 1:09 a.m.

Red Robins will be a great addition to this area. The one near me on Carpenter Road is a lot of fun, and it's a great place for those with families. Try that in downtown A2! Other than Mondo's BBQ, where else is there a family theme resturant that doesn't cost over $100 for four? Not including the parking!

John Schultz

Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 11:48 p.m.

goodthoughts - some punctuation would go a long way, but I eventually parsed your question. I don't see why the Carpenter Red Robin would close; Applebee's has stayed in 2 very similar locations for years now.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 9:31 p.m.

Bennigan's was very popular 20 years ago. The nachos were the best in town, along with the Pantree and Frasiers. Then at some point the cheese turned to plastic and the staff quit caring.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 8:03 p.m.

So just to clarify is the unconfirmed Red Robin going in another location or is the one on Carpenter going to close-just curious.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 7:43 p.m.

the last time I ate at Bennigans was 12 years ago...I ordered chicken tenders with fries and my plate showed up with a deep fried FEATHER on top...lost my appetite and never went back


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 7:24 p.m.

My whole family has loved Bennigan's for years!!! Sorry to see them leaving the area. We will definatly be driving to Howell for a Turkey 'O Toole soon!! :)


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 5:23 p.m.

Haha! Fleeing dirty downtown for the free parking of Red Robin...I love it. In a couple years those fleeing will realize they're burning the extra dollar in gas that the kiosk wanted.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 5:03 p.m.

Yes. There will be a huge difference. That's where everyone is threatening to go when they boycott downtown Ann Arbor because they don't want to pay two bucks for parking. They'll circle the block for 45 minutes looking for their free street parking. Then they'll give up when they can't find it and head out to the mall for dinner. After dinner, they'll take a stroll down the quaint mall hallway past the barkers at the kiosks and stop at Wetzel's Pretzels for dessert.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 4:59 p.m.

After I had what Beinnigins considered a Monte Cristo it isn't a shock they're going out of business.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Nohting shocking there. People love Red Robin.


Mon, Jan 11, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

Red Robin? Really?