Surprise! Eatery picks up diners' $5,182.19 Tab

February 13, 2015 | USA TODAY

DETROIT — Guests who dined at Royal Oak's Bistro 82 were shocked when they received their dinner bills Wednesday night — but not because the amounts were higher than expected.
In fact, it was all free, courtesy of owner Aaron F. Belen's AFB Hospitality Group.

And as icing on the cake, the company donated a matching amount to the Royal Oak Boys & Girls Club.

The total tab for the night was $5,182.19 in complimentary food and beverages and $5,182.19 in contributions to the youth organization.

The unannounced gift to guests was in celebration of the restaurant's first anniversary and was Belen's way, he said, "of saying thank you to the people who've been loyal supporters and helped me fulfill our dream of bringing these two concepts to Michigan and Royal Oak." He also owns Sabrage, an upscale lounge and nightclub above the restaurant.

Some guests "almost didn't believe it," said Justin Near, whose public relations company represents the restaurant. (Belen was not on hand because he was home nursing an ankle injury.) "Guests were thanking everyone they could — the servers, the hostesses, even the valet," Near said.

The company mentioned in a radio interview earlier in the week that Wednesday night's anniversary would be marked by "a unique surprise," Near said, but there was no hint of what. "They probably thought it would be something like a flute of champagne or complimentary dessert," he said.

Belen said he chose the Boys & Girls Club to support because it is dedicated to "giving kids a good path to go down" and teaches them they can succeed if they stay focused and pursue their dreams.

"We are excited Bistro 82 has been so well-received," Belen said Thursday. "We're proud to have helped put a spotlight on Royal Oak as a new dining destination in metro Detroit."

Noting that the restaurant had exceeded its first-year projections, he said the company is "currently looking at adding new concepts" in still-to-be-determined locations

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