Detroit, MI

Detroit's Cass Cafe to close next week

Author Ed Anderson

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Detroit icon Cass Cafe is closing on July 17Cass Cafe

Cass Cafe is a true icon of the Cass Corridor. 

The restaurant has been a meeting space for students at Wayne State University and other Detroiters for nearly 30 years. 

However, its time as a go-to place for first dates and study groups is coming to an end as the owner, Chuck Roy, announced that the restaurant is closing on July 17, 2022. 

Meghaen Tebo, the manager of Cass Cafe, told The Detroit Free Press that it's a massive loss to the community: "This is a local spot to hang out. I hang out here as well."

While many hung out there, recent times have brought trouble for the beloved spot. Roy noted in his announcement that the pandemic created some obstacles for the restaurant industry as a whole.

Many small business owners, including Roy, have claimed a labor shortage has hampered their ability to conduct business. 

He also is quoted by Deadline Detroit as saying that he has decided to retire. The decision came to do it during the summer months when business is usually slower as WSU students are off for the summer and other patrons are traveling. 

There is some hope; Roy hasn't ruled out selling the restaurant to someone else. Though closing a deal with little more than a week to go would seem to be near impossible. 

Some fans note that the owner told Deadline Detroit that he would reopen for Dally In The Alley in September. Business consultant Michelle Wolfe says it would be the perfect way to introduce a new owner. 

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A community mourns the loss of a cornerstoneFlickr

Reaction To Closure

When news broke about the impending closure of Cass cafe, social media users cried foul. Many wondered why it was happening now or why the announcement hadn't been made before now. 

Scott T. Sterling tweeted his disappointment in the decision: "Truly the end of an era. RIP to the legendary CASS CAFE, which closes on July 17, 2022, after nearly 30 years of serving the city."

Many tried to understand why the closure needed to happen in the first place. Several people on Facebook placed the blame on gentrification. In recent years, there has been a big push to bring tech companies and other high-end businesses to boost Detroit's economy. 

Maureen McDonald wrote on Facebook: "Sad news. The Cass Cafe is closing. This is a go-to spot for decades. I feel like an old fart. It is a center of gravity when all of Midtown is changing, a comfortable haunt with great art and good food."

Still, others were surprised by the reaction to the news. Detroit Celtic Supporters tweeted, "genuinely surprised by people being surprised cass cafe is closing. never saw anyone in there for years now...."

Some former employees reminisced about their time with the restaurant. One called the job a great experience, saying it changed their life.

Another remembered that the job offered a vastly different experience for her. However, both sentiments seemed to be positive and about making lifelong friends. 

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Goodbye to the first restaurant to offer vegetarian and vegan meal optionsFacebook

History Goodbye

As the community mourns the closing of Cass Cafe, many are looking back at how it all began. 

Deadline Detroit reports that 32 years ago, when Chuck Roy was a student at Wayne State, he bought the building that would come to house Cass Cafe.

After a couple of years, he opened the restaurant. The goal was to make it community-based, so he made a few decisions that proved critical to the eatery's success. 

Instead of having TVs mounted on the walls, Roy had art from local artists hanging. The move proved brilliant, and people came in to see what was chosen. The practice evolved into the art being rotated every quarter. 

One of the things that helped set Cass Cafe apart from its restaurant brethren was that it offered vegetarian and vegan meal options before it was trendy. 

With the closing nine days away, Chuck Roy offered a glimpse into another part of his reasoning. One that helped prove the point of the Detroit Celtic Supporters' stance. 

He told Crain's Detroit: "(Cass Cafe has) run its course. If it were a successful, booming business, this wouldn't be done this way. It's been a struggle, but it's been a great ride over the last 28 years and seven months."

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Ed Anderson is a true crime and gossip writer from Detroit, Michigan. Ed is the author of several true crime books, most recently Cold Cases From Around The World.

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