Piada Italian Street Food has joined the growing list of Ann Arbor businesses that have permanently closed their doors amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the epicenter of downtown Ann Arbor, the Italian restaurant had become a pillar of the town’s culinary scene. Now, with the beloved restaurant departing, another storefront will again sit empty.
Matt Harding, Piada’s director of culinary and corporate executive chef, confirmed the permanent closure to The Daily.
“It makes me sad,” Harding said. “We loved servicing the students and the people in Ann Arbor. But from a business decision, with everything going on with COVID, it just didn’t make sense going forward.”
For Ann Arbor, the COVID-19 pandemic hit as rising rent prices and an increase in development across the city were already putting a strain on local businesses; in 2018 alone, 18 businesses were forced to close their doors.
Piada was not immune to this strain. Harding said the restaurant chain was already considering not renewing its Ann Arbor lease even before COVID-19, and that the economic fallout of the pandemic just solidified that decision.
“If COVID wouldn’t have happened, would we have redone the lease?” Harding said. “I don’t think so. But when COVID came around, it just became all the more clear that it was something we had to do.”
The fast-casual food chain opened the Ann Arbor location in 2016 after the Five Guys that had previously occupied the space on South State Street closed down. The space sat empty for over a year before Piada opened.
University of Michigan Engineering senior Devin Gohel frequented Piada and said he will miss having the restaurant in Ann Arbor.
“I really liked that they had a seasonal menu,” Gohel said. “They always had different options with fresh ingredients depending on the season. I’m definitely going to miss that.”
With COVID-19 upending the economy, a number of other local businesses have been forced to permanently shut down, including Espresso Royale, Aut Bar and Arbor Brewing Company.
Gohel expressed concern that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting small businesses that he sees as central to life in Ann Arbor.
“I do think that we are going to see more mom-and-pop restaurants shut down, and that’s really sad,” Gohel said. “The thing that I find unique about Ann Arbor is that it is full of mom-and-pop restaurants, like non-franchise kinds of restaurants. And I just worry that that’s going to start going away and may be a thing of the past.”
Information senior Harrison McCabe said that although Piada wasn’t his favorite place to eat, the closure worries him about the fate of other restaurants in the area.
“The thing that makes me the most sad is seeing how many empty storefronts there are on State and Liberty, and how this has just become a number,” McCabe said. “We had too many stores closing before COVID. And now with COVID, seeing another store, and a popular one, close … it makes me concerned that my favorite place is going to close.”
McCabe expressed concern for future students who might not be able to experience the Ann Arbor scene the same way he had.
“I feel the worst for the future generation,” McCabe said. “I’m a senior. I’ve at least experienced a lot of these places. Some people, like my sister who is just starting to apply to college, if she goes here she is not going to have nearly the selection that I had.”
Daily Staff Reporter John Grieve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.