Owner of Bistro 82 in Royal Oak picks up $5,128 tab for all diners, gives same amount to Boys & Girls Club

February 14, 2015 | Macomb Daily

Dozens of diners at Bistro 82 in Royal Oak — along with the Boys & Girls Club — all got a delicious treat from the owner as he celebrated the eatery’s one-year anniversary.

“I wanted to do something really special and decided to surprise all our guests by paying everybody’s tab,” said owner Aaron Belen.

The bill came to $5,182.19. Then Belen doubled down and donated the same amount to the Boys & Girls Club at 1545 E. Lincoln in Royal Oak.

“It was one of the most creative and generous donations I have ever seen,” said Brett Tillander, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland & Macomb Counties. “His generosity will impact our club members well beyond Bistro 82’s one-year anniversary.”

Belen, who is also a real estate investor, brought the upscale Bistro 82 restaurant to Fourth and Lafayette in Royal Oak and opened the Sabrage lounge on the second floor against the advice of some naysayers, he said.

“I think we took a big risk bringing these two concepts to Michigan and the Royal Oak market,” he said. “I wanted to bring first-class dining and nightlife here and shake up the market a little bit.”

Wednesday night’s freebie for all the diners garnered a lot of media coverage for the businesses, but it wasn’t the first time Bistro 82 has been in the limelight.

The restaurant recently was discussed as a possible candidate for best restaurant in Metro Detroit by food writer Nathan Skid.

Media also had a field day last June when Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Garner celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary with a dinner at the restaurant. Affleck was in town while shooting the movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” that is set for release March 25.

“Having Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner choose the restaurant for their anniversary dinner is definitely a standout moment,” said Justin Near, head of Near Perfect Media and publicist for Belen’s AFB Hospitality Group. “It put the restaurant on the map nationally … It didn’t hurt that Ben became somewhat of a regular during his time here.”

Belen’s charity gesture Wednesday was a way of giving back, he said.

“It was really about trying to help the community we directly do business with in Royal Oak,” Belen said, “so we wanted to give back on a local level.”

Belen has had a great experience in Royal Oak and is proud of putting a spotlight on the city as a dining destination in metro Detroit, he said.

“I love the market and there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the segment I’m in,” he said. “Clearly, a lot of people have gravitated here and support what we are doing.”

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