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Macomb Township

'Kitchen Nightmares' restaurant closes doors

August 12, 2009

Owner sites bad economy, lack of liquor license for demise

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Giuseppe’s Trattoria is no more, and owners Kathy and Joe Borgia are heartbroken.

Even with the publicity from appearing on national TV in Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” and even after transferring in a long-anticipated liquor license, the Borgias “had no other choice.”

The family-owned Italian eatery on Hayes, just south of 21 Mile, closed its doors the weekend of July 4.

“We hung on as long as we could,” said Kathy Borgia. “With a lack of working capital, with the economy — it’s kind of done us in. It’s a tough time to be in business.

“That, and if I didn’t have to give so much money trying to get that liquor license.”

While she blames the economy for her lack of a paycheck, Borgia is convinced that having a liquor license in the beginning would’ve established a steady clientele sooner and, perhaps, prevented the restaurant’s demise.

They couldn’t serve wine with their pastas for the first three years they were open, she continued. It wasn’t until earlier this year that they were able to buy a liquor license from an auction after the township denied them one of its own.

A lack of money, however, was the exact reason the township’s Board of Trustees denied Giuseppe’s one of its liquor licenses in the first place. Back in January 2008, the board sited financial unreliability when it unanimously voted on the denial.

The Macomb Township Board of Trustees has been repeatedly criticized for hoarding more than 20 liquor licenses.

Giuseppe’s denial of a liquor license from the township came during the Jan. 23, 2008, Board of Trustees meeting. Macomb Township Clerk Michael Koehs originally said it was denied due to the owners’ financial history, but Joe Borgia had vehemently argued that Giuseppe’s was completely paid for.

“There were concerns about the financial ability of the petitioner … concerns about his record as a business owner,” Koehs said after the board denied the license in 2008.

What was most upsetting to the Borgias in their fight for a liquor license was the thousands of dollars they’d spent in application and legal fees throughout the whole process. They said it was money they’d never see again.

What really stung, though, Borgia continued, was that the board has never offered her any help in staying afloat as a local business owner. She cited an alleged stimulus boost the city of Detroit recently gave to its restaurant owners and wished Macomb Township could’ve done something similar.

“Not only did I lose my business, all three of us lost our jobs — me, my husband and my son,” Borgia cried. “I live in Macomb, you’d think they’d have compassion for me.”

She called Giuseppe’s spot on Hayes and 21 Mile a “dream location … a restaurant in my own city.”

As for the “Kitchen Nightmares” experience, Borgia said it was nothing but positive. Last March, the show’s host, chef Gordon Ramsey, gave Giuseppe’s a total overhaul, complete with a new menu and updated look.

The show first aired on Fox last September and Ramsey revisited Giuseppe’s this past June. The Borgias donated proceeds from the restaurant on the nights the shows aired to the American Diabetes Association, to which Joe Borgia, who battles diabetes, has contributed for years.

“He’s not doing well,” Kathy Borgia said of her husband. “He’s taking it personally too.”

Borgia has since taken a management position with another employer. It’s the first paycheck she’s seen in a long time.

She was sad to say that she and her husband are moving out of the community sometime before September, when the foreclosure is compete on their Macomb Township home.

“I love the community; I love the people. It’s just the board is not a business-friendly board,” she said. “I’ve learned a lesson and it was a very expensive lesson.”


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