By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — Le Cigar cocktail and cigar bar Owner Najib Rizk can afford to be picky when it comes to choosing the new tenant for the former Cheli’s Chili Bar in west Dearborn.
After all, he has three options from which to choose.
After a 10-year run on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Boulevard, Cheli’s closed Feb. 20.
Former Detroit Red Wings Defenseman Chris Chelios owned Cheli’s.
The closing of the restaurant was announced Feb. 18 in a Facebook post.
Rizk connected with Chelios through his agent about four months ago to purchase the building.
He purchased the building about three weeks ago. Rizk’s business, 22263 Michigan Ave., is about three blocks west of his newly acquired property.
Rizk said he plans on leasing the building and its new tenant will run an operation similar to Cheli’s.
He said his prospective tenants all want to open a sports bar in the 7,100-square-foot space.
Rizk said he cannot release any information about the prospective tenants until the lease is signed and finalized, which is slated for the next two weeks.
Rizk said one of the potential tenants may add a cigar bar to the building.
“I have to protect my interests here,” Rizk said. “I am well established here. I don’t want competition.”
Dearborn resident Teresa Chase, who has taken her family to eat at Cheli’s throughout the years, said she was “disappointed” when she heard about a potential cigar lounge.
“Cheli’s had a great staff and amazing customer service,” Chase said. “We are really hoping it will be turned into another eatery rather than a cigar lounge.”
Rizk said the next step is for him and his lawyer to decide on who will move into his building.
“Right now I feel like it is going to one person, but you never know,” he said. “But I am choosing the best for me and my business. Hopefully in a week we will reach an agreement and then announce who is going there.”
Rizk said what is best for his business is to choose a tenant that would attract customers, while not detracting them from his own business, which he has owned for the past 14 years.
“I would like to use a big name there,” he said.
Although Rizk remained mum on the names of his potential tenants, he said two of them are “big” and one has a business in Dearborn.
Rizk said the potential tenants all submitted business plans to him and he is still waiting on floor plans to see how their operation would look.
“No matter who goes there, it is going to be a sports bar,” he said.
Rizk said the new tenant will need to get their business plan approved by the City Council.
Rizk plans to obtain a permit for the building.
Rizk said it is highly unlikely that all three potential businesses will not get selected. If that is the case, Rizk may operate the building.
“Even if I open the building myself, I am not closing this place,” he said of the cigar bar. “This place is doing good. This is my baby and I am keeping it. I might operate it and have someone manage it, but I don’t see that happening.”
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected].)