BATH, Maine — “Accidental restaurateurs” Will and Pia Neilson opened Solo Bistro on Front Street in Bath 13 years ago after spending a year searching for someone to open “an upscale restaurant” in the building they’d bought.
“We were actually never restaurant people at all,” Will Neilson said Friday. “I used to be a corporate lawyer in New York.”
But when they bought the three-story building, the Front Street Deli had just been sold, and the new owners soon closed the deli.
“In the end, we decided to give it a try by ourselves, which was hardly the wisest thing to do, but it became quite a good restaurant,” he said.
But unless another restaurateur wants to make a go in the same spot, this summer will be Solo Bistro’s last. The building, and business, are for sale, and the restaurant is slated to close around Labor Day.
The Neilsons aren’t going anywhere — they plan to remain in Arrowsic and Will Neilson is the incoming vice president of Main Street Bath, a community development organization. But they’re ready to be done with the restaurant business, which Will said is “physically and economically tough.”
He’s confident Solo Bistro has helped downtown Bath grow, and noted that new restaurants — Salt Pine Social and possibly a new brewpub — are opening up, which will provide opportunities for his staff.
Head chef Ray Franklyn “won’t have any trouble going anywhere,” Neilson said. “He’s a great chef and a really good guy. He’ll be snapped up with no problem.”
Still, he said, “It’s hard breaking up a team,” particularly people, he said, who know good food and provide great service.
The restaurant is listed with the building at 128-134 Front St. for $825,000. Above the restaurant, according to the listing, are “NY-style loft apartments.”
Will Neilson, who ran unsuccessfully for the Maine Legislature in 2016, will continue to work on political advocacy, he said, adding, “I think we’re really, both nationally and in the state, headed down the wrong path and I think people misunderstand the economic situation.”