Royal Oak Food Fight: The Mayor vs. the Restaurant Owner -- it's On and it's Hot
July 9th, 2018, 8:50 PM
"Here's your story -- careful now, it's just cooked and still very hot."
Mamma mia -- spicy, saucy stuff is dished by Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier, who dislikes a restaurant executive's swipe at his city.
Things started simmering when Joe Vicari, president and chief exec of Andiamo Group, told the Free Press his Royal Oak site is closing partly because the city recently shut a nearby vehicle lot for an office development. "Closing parking right behind us was really the last nail in the coffin," Vicari says in a Saturday article by Joe Guillen.
Two days later, the part-time suburban mayor hits back with words as sharp as pepperoncini in an antipasto.
"This has nothing to do with parking and landlords, but perhaps everything to do with the product he offers," Fournier says in a statement quoted by the Freep.
"There are over 1,000 parking spots within a block of his establishment. The surface lot has only been out of commission for weeks.
"Is he suggesting his product isn't good enough for people to walk a block? Plenty of other restaurants are doing well that are not right next to surface parking." . . .
"I wish Mr. Vicari the best of luck and hopefully he can find an outer-suburban strip mall with an oasis of parking that suits his business model better."
Holy cannoli, Mr. Mayor. This is as tense and heated as a restaurant kitchen at dinner rush. Need a Negroni on the rocks or a chilled Pellegrino?
The Freep, serving as kind of a message runner between city hall and the Andiamo Group office in Renaissance Center downtown, keeps the grill hot:
Vicari accused Fournier of "throwing sour grapes" and said that a statement he made about the restaurant is "baloney." He said he is considering legal action over the mayor's disparaging remarks.
Vicari said Fournier's suggestion the restaurant's product was not good enough for people to walk a block is "bull----."
Vicari said there is "one reason and one reason only" its Royal Oak location was closed after 19 years, and that's parking, although the business had been hurt by the rising popularity of restaurants in Ferndale and Detroit. He also previously cited rent increases.
This is clear: When a small city mayor gets scrappy with an Italian-American businessman heading the state's largest restaurant company (
22 21 sites in Michigan and Las Vegas), it's not exactly a church bingo game dispute. "Bullshit," "baloney" and "sour grapes" get flung like . . . well, like slop at an "Animal House" food fight.