Bistro that focuses on Middle Eastern Mediterranean food is closing in downtown Chattanooga

The 405 Mid-East Bistro plans to close.

After opening just eight months ago, 405 Mid-East Bistro plans to close at the end of April.

The downtown bistro that focuses on Middle Eastern Mediterranean food was opened by Chicago restaurateur Rashad Moughrabi, who's originally from Chattanooga. The bistro at 405 Market St. near Jack's Alley served Lebanese and Palestinian-style food.

The announcement was made on the restaurant's Facebook page and states their last day open will be Tuesday, April 30. Moughrabi said the restaurant employed 20 people at its high point.

"Unfortunately, we haven't been able to build enough interest in our unique cuisine and style to make our business viable in Chattanooga," the post states. "The amazing support that we did receive, and the incredible people that we were fortunate enough to meet along our journey is something that we will forever cherish."

The space where the restaurant is located has struggled to keep a business in it the past few years. The location previously held The Henpecked Chicken before it closed in 2017. Applebee's also closed next door.

Moughrabi told the Times Free Press that parking could have been "a little bit" of a problem, but that wasn't the difference maker.

"It was a different style of food around Chattanooga," he said. "It didn't hit home that well."

Moughrabi said the location may have been a factor though, noting the recent closing of the Bluewater Grille just a block away.

Dozens of customers commented on the restaurant's farewell post, stating that their location and lack of parking was the issue and not the food. But River City Company officials said there's plenty of parking in the area, citing a parking study from 2018. River City Co. is a nonprofit that promotes development in the downtown area.

The study states that within a one block walk of the Market Street location, there are seven public parking lots that account for 558 parking spaces that were never more than 60% utilized at the peak of parking demand whether on a weekday or weekend.

That also doesn't include all the street, metered parking that fronts both sides of Market Street on that block, said Amy Donahue, River City's director of marketing and communications.

Donahue said there are non-American eateries downtown that have been in business for years, including Indian, Thai, Latin, Greek, Chinese and other ethnic food options. She said someone has already reached out to River City about a new concept for the space even though River City doesn't own or lease the property.

"We are excited that people reach out to us about the concepts they would like to see in downtown Chattanooga and how they plan to make it happen," Donahue said.

In the U.S., almost one-third of small businesses close within two years of opening, and that number jumps to half of all small businesses closing within five years, according to the Small Business Administration.

"It's not an easy and guaranteed successful path to start your own business, and downtown Chattanooga is not excluded from that," Donahue said. "However, you have many successful eateries in downtown that have been in business a long time, including eateries that are located on that very block."

Mike Pare, deputy business editor, contributed to this story.

Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at [email protected], @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.