GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A restaurant near Van Andel Arena that shut down when pandemic restrictions started won’t be reopening.
Wheelhouse served its last meal in March, owner Meritage Hospitality Group confirmed Wednesday.
“Due to the significant number of businesses that are currently closed downtown, including Van Andel Arena, Wheelhouse will remain closed until further notice,” the restaurant’s phone recording still states.
Wheelhouse was Meritage Hospitality Group’s flagship restaurant when the Arena Place development opened in 2016. Featuring three built-in fireplaces, a bar area that can seat up to 85 guests, and private event space with a video wall, the ground floor restaurant at 67 Ottawa Ave. SW thrived when the nearby Van Andel Arena hosted large events — something that hasn’t happened for nearly nine months.
Meritage says a pandemic-prompted shift toward takeout and delivery over dining at restaurants also undercut business at The Wheelhouse.
However, a new shining star has emerged from Meritage’s collection of restaurants: Stan Diego Baja Taco Kitchen in Standale, which “did really well” when it reopened for takeout and delivery in April, according to Melissa Robinson with Meritage.
“Tacos travel really well. We also have margaritas that travel really well,” said Robinson.
Stan Diego’s success has fueled a transformation at Wheelhouse. Construction is now underway to convert the 8,000-square-foot space into a second Stan Diego restaurant.
Robinson says Meritage thinks the taco kitchen will “be a better fit downtown” with Van Andel Arena, Studio Park and new apartments nearby.
The new restaurant will have a similar color scheme and design to the original Stan Diego, which opened in April 2018.
Robinson says with circumstances constantly changing because of the pandemic, there’s no firm date when the second Stan Diego restaurant will open. However, she says Meritage will wait until events restart and “downtown becomes alive again.”