Feeding the Soul

Le Bistro Café shuttered its doors in 2002 to the disappointment of many Haligonians. With a 26-year history, the French-inspired café had acquired a devoted group of regulars who sang the praises of its welcoming atmosphere and signature dishes. The restaurant had become an important part of the community, a gathering place for friends and family who had made Le Bistro an integral part of their routine.

Liz Ingram-Chambers, then General Manager of Le Bistro, knew that the café was special. A lifelong resident of Halifax, Ingram-Chambers began working at Le Bistro in 1990 as a server before being promoted to General Manager in 1993.

“It was really a community-based restaurant,” Ingram-Chambers says. “It was always welcoming.”

When Le Bistro closed, the location was leased to a different restaurant and Ingram-Chambers pursued other ventures. She opened a small restaurant and coffee shop downtown and shared her expertise as a restaurant consultant. But she never forgot Le Bistro.

“It just never felt right,” she says. “Le Bistro was always calling me back. There’s just something unique about this space; the feel of it and the clientele.”

Ingram-Chambers was waiting for an opportunity. In 2008, one presented itself when she was able to reregister Le Bistro as a business. Three years later, Liz secured a lease in the Park Victoria building on South Park Street, the same location that the original Le Bistro had occupied. At the end of 2011, nearly ten years after Le Bistro café had closed, Le Bistro by Liz was preparing to open for business.

A Group Effort

Ingram-Chambers had a vision for Le Bistro by Liz. Making that vision a reality turned out to be a group effort.

After a long lease negotiation, Ingram-Chambers secured the original Le Bistro Café location. However, what was supposed to be a turnkey operation turned into an immense undertaking when she discovered that the kitchen equipment and furnishings had been removed. This was two months before Le Bistro was scheduled to reopen.

Limited by budget, Liz relied on the help of family and friends to complete the required renovations.

There was also the issue of the menu. Ingram-Chambers wanted to bring back some of the original Le Bistro staples, and perfectly recreating those dishes required some time-consuming experimentation.

While navigating these challenges, Ingram-Chambers was faced with an important question: where to bank for her small business? When her brother, a fellow business owner, told her about CUA, she decided to reach out.

“I was really lucky to have the support of CUA to be able to reopen Le Bistro and have it as my own. There are not a lot of banks that support our industry, so knowing that CUA is there for me was a big help.”

Working directly with CUA, Ingram-Chambers was able to secure financing to purchase the kitchen equipment she needed, keeping her opening schedule on track. After two months of around-the-clock planning and preparation, Le Bistro by Liz was ready to open. In December 2011, the restaurant welcomed back patrons, old and new alike.

“I had a lot of support from my family and some friends. Getting Le Bistro open was clearly a huge struggle but incredibly rewarding,” recalls Ingram-Chambers.

A Ten-Year Milestone

In December 2021, Le Bistro by Liz celebrated its tenth anniversary. After more than a decade, the restaurant is a veteran operation, efficient with a cohesive team and much like the original Le Bistro, has a devoted group of regulars.

many of Le Bistro’s signature dishes, and she expanded the menu to be more vegetarian and gluten-free friendly. Much of the Le Bistro by Liz team have been there for years, including the chef, who had initially worked with Ingram-Chambers at the original Le Bistro.

Perhaps most importantly, Le Bistro by Liz has gone the extra mile to ensure that customers feel at home. The atmosphere is both chic and welcoming with a stylish but unpretentious ambiance. It is one of those rare places that is ideal for both date night and a relaxed meal with close friends and family.

Over the past decade, Le Bistro by Liz has become an important part of the community. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, loyal customers have continued to support Le Bistro, ordering takeout and visiting in-person when safe.

After a decade in service, Le Bistro by Liz remains a loyal CUA member.

“CUA has always seemed to be there for me as a small-business owner,” says Ingram-Chambers. “They're also good customers! You know, I usually have a Christmas party for the CUA branch up the street. I regularly see staff from there supporting me too, which is really important.”

As Le Bistro by Liz looks toward the future, Ingram-Chambers says she hopes to bring back live music and entertainment to the restaurant once government regulations allow.

“It's about the atmosphere and feeding the soul of the customer,” Ingram-Chambers says. “It’s not just the food and beverage, but actually connecting with that person. We have customers that come in and say, ‘It’s good to be home.’ That's the way people look at Le Bistro, like they are family. They're here for us as much as we're here for them.”

This month, we are giving away a $50 Le Bistro by Liz gift card to one CUA member. To sign up for the giveaway, click here. To learn more about Le Bistro by Liz, visit their website at https://www.lebistrohalifax.com/.


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