WATERLOO — The downtown restaurant whose interior is a loving homage to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling will not reopen.
But artist Paco Rosic, who painstakingly recreated the masterpiece with spray paint, said the landmark will continue on as a different venue.
Galleria de Paco will serve as a gallery for other art created by Rosic. That will bring it back to what the name and the artist suggest was his intent since inception.
“This was the original idea from 2006,” said Rosic. The space at 622 Commercial St. will maintain its iconic decor and also include a coffee shop. The changeover will be made at a future date once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
The fine-dining restaurant serving European cuisine made international headlines when it opened 14 years ago. Business was steady and still drawing busloads of tourists from all over the world when it shut down in March.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Rosic, expressing gratitude to faithful customers. “I met so many people over the last 14 years.”
The artist, who arrived in the United States with his family as a child after fleeing war in Bosnia, said he has been through other challenging times in his life and wanted to encourage community members in the midst of the difficulties everyone is facing. “What’s most important is to stay healthy,” he said.
Rosic shuttered the business as part of a state-ordered effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unlike many area restaurateurs, he didn’t consider providing take-out options for diners. “This was an experience,” he said.
Implementing social distancing restrictions if he were to reopen soon under state guidelines would make the business unprofitable, he believes. The restaurant’s permanent closure was announced Friday on Galleria de Paco’s Facebook page.
Rosic’s parents Anna and Jacky had managed the restaurant and he said “close to 15 employees” were laid off when it shut down. He was often in the kitchen doing cooking duty, but never saw that as his calling.
“I was burned out over the last few years,” he said, noting it was taking him away from his work as a painter and photographer. “I need to go back to my art. Now I’ve got time to do what I want to do.”
Rosic expects to spend a lot more time during the coming months in the studio, which is part of his loft apartment upstairs from the restaurant. He hopes it will be a productive time whose output will fill the space downstairs with new purpose.
“Then people are welcome to come and see my art, my new ideas,” he said.
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