A restaurant that has been a fixture near downtown Chattanooga's riverfront is shifting to the central city's trendy West Village.
Easy Bistro & Bar plans to open around Aug. 1 at its new location at 801 Chestnut St. in the corner space that had been occupied by Italian eatery Alimentari. That restaurant is moving inside the nearby Westin hotel.
Amanda Niel, co-owner of Easy Bistro with husband Erik, said downtown is "really lively" in the West Village. After 15 years on Broad Street near the Tennessee Aquarium, the restaurant's lease is up at that location, she said.
"The riverfront has changed so much," Amanda Niel said. "We really wanted to spend the next 15 years in an area that continues to push forward. We believe the West Village will continue to do that."
Niel said there's more retail in the West Village and developers seem to be putting money into that area of downtown. Also, she said, a lot of local people aren't going to the riverfront anymore.
Downtown officials are currently overseeing a study to re-energize the riverfront and spur more activity.
Amy Donahue of the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co. said the study process has slowed down amid the coronavirus, but it's ongoing.
Because of social distancing, planners have been conducting virtual meetings in the community, and they're encouraging people to take an online survey, she said.
"We definitely plan to do in-person engagement and feedback sessions when we can," Donahue said. "We're waiting on the ability to do that safely."
Amanda Niel said the new site of Easy Bistro will offer seating for about 100. She said that Easy Bistro also is taking over the adjacent footprint which held Paloma, a tapas bar and restaurant, which has moved to the 10th floor of the Westin.
Niel said Easy Bistro will offer a private dining room as well as take-out space in the new location. In addition, the restaurant will open for lunch, she said. Niel said the restaurant will have expanded raw bar offerings, a wood-burning oven with accompanying menu items and al fresco dining.
The restaurant co-owner said they started looking at space about six months ago even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We said we have down time. Let's start construction now while we have this unfortunately going on," Niel said. She said they bought the equipment in the former Alimentari and are leasing the space from the DeFoor brothers, who developed the Westin and the West Village.
Tom Underwood, the Westin's general manager, said Alimentari likely will open before Aug. 1 in the lobby and replace the Dorato restaurant.
"It will take some construction and design," he said. "We're still finalizing what those things will look like. We feel it's a great fit."
Paloma moved into the rooftop bar space about two weeks ago and has done well, Underwood said.
Attracting Easy Bistro to the West Village is "a great addition to the immediate neighborhood and to hotel guests," he said. "It will make it attractive to Chattanoogans and visitors alike."
Erik Niel said he opened Easy Bistro in May 2005 when he was 27 and considered it "the greatest accomplishment of my life at that time."
"To have the opportunity to re-envision it 15 years later is absolutely thrilling," he said.
His wife said she's nostalgic about the space it occupied for a decade and a half, but the restaurant is "so much more than the building it has occupied."
"It is the wonderful and talented people that bring it to life every day, and I'm so proud to be a part of this team," she said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.