By Kathy Gibbons
TRAVERSE CITY — The Soul Hole will close Saturday night.
Meanwhile, one of the chefs involved in the Soul Hole's early days who'd moved to another, now-closed restaurant at Grand Traverse Commons is on to another venture in Elk Rapids.
Soul Hole owner Matt Hunter said the eatery's inability to procure a liquor license prompted his decision to call it a day.
"We've been waiting nine months," he said. "We were approved by the DDA, we got our application in in March, and it's still apparently nowhere close.
"I think we've just come to the conclusion that even though we've got an outstanding staff and great restaurant and great reputation, it's kind of an unsustainable formula without a liquor license. I hate to say it, but I'm drawing a line in the sand."
Hunter purchased the building at 408 S. Union and opened the restaurant in April 2010. About half of the Soul Hole's 13 employees are full-time.
"They're all very, very good employees and I am going to hope they get picked up elsewhere," he said.
Ralph Humes, one of the chefs who helped start the Soul Hole, had moved on to start his own restaurant, Mana, in the Mercato at Grand Traverse Commons in early 2011. For the moment, that restaurant is closed as Humes has become a partner and working chef at Sweet Mama's in Elk Rapids. Located at 145 Ames, Sweet Mama's has been open about two months, and offers lunch and dinner with seating for around 40.
"I'm basically fixing the food that I've always fixed," Humes said. "I guess, for lack of a better word ... eclectic ethnic."
Humes said he'd hoped to continue involvement with both Mana and Sweet Mama's, but it was too much.
"Presently my hands are full with (Sweet Mama's)," he said.
As for the Mercato restaurant, Grand Traverse Commons' developer Ray Minervini Jr. said it will probably reopen in early January with a new chef and name.
"It's an area restaurant operator (who) is intending to create a reboot — that was the phrase he was using — with a new name and new items," Minervini said.
Final details are still being discussed, he added. Neither he nor Humes would disclose the identity of the new proprietor.