The closing of revered Lexington restaurant a la lucie at the end of November will be the end of one era and the beginning of another.
Owner Lucie Slone-Meyers will close one restaurant and plans to open another, Lucie's at the Red Light, next year at 780 North Limestone.
But it also will mark the end of what she calls "The Lucie and Louis Show," with the retirement of her long-time head waiter Louis Z. Bickett, an acclaimed artist who has a neurological disorder that affects his movement. He won't be able to work at her new place.
For Slone-Meyers, that change might be as dramatic as the move up the street.
"We've been together for 31 years," she said. The semi-nude portrait of her in the restaurant was painted by Federico Pizzurro in Bickett's bathroom.
Bickett came to work for her shortly after she opened her restaurant on Limestone in the 1980s at a time when waiters served in starched tuxedo shirts and bow ties.
Slone-Meyers, an artist herself, often surrounded herself with other artists and actors, Bickett said. "Those are the people she wanted to be around," he said.
Over the years, a la lucie became known for the romantic atmosphere as much as the great food. As one of the few white tablecloth restaurants in the city in the 1980s, it was a prime spot for celebrations large and small. Many a birthday, anniversary and romantic engagement were toasted there.
"And we had a divorce proposal, too," Bickett said. "It was horrible."
He and Slone-Meyers became close to many of their regulars. They always catered to what the patron wanted, if they could.
"If you wanted a hamburger, I'd make you one. It might be ground up filet mignon, but if that's what you want ...," she said with a smile.
Bickett said Mayor Jim Gray's mother, Lois, used to come there to eat once a week; she wanted flan for dessert, but the restaurant didn't make flan.
"I sent a waiter down the street to the Mexican restaurant," Bickett said. She got her flan.
The restaurant also developed a following among literary types and celebrities, who could get great food in a charming atmosphere without fuss or fawning.
But they might not have realized they were in the company of a singular archivist: Bickett has religiously catalogued his life. That includes the restaurant, with no detail too small.
Take the late Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, who ate at a la lucie in May 2006.
"He had the veal liver," Bickett said. "I still have his knife and fork." Unwashed, of course.
And novelist Stephen King.
"He smoked about 25 cigarettes," Bickett said. "Someone threw them out before I could bag them."
Or playwright and actor Sam Shepard.
"He caught my menu on fire right here at this table," Slone-Meyers said. (It isn't clear what happened to those ashes.)
Slone-Meyers found her expressive outlet in collecting.
"Some people go out to eat, and some people travel, some do drugs ... I collect junk," she said.
"Her house looks like a cross between an anthropology collection and an antique shop," Bickett said. "It's unbelievable."
And that has given her great material to work with for her many restaurants. Much of the stuff came from her travels, Bickett said. She returned from a trip to Thailand, and a few weeks later, a giant crate showed up. "It was loaded with Buddhas," he said.
Bickett will miss his regular customers when he retires at the end of November, he said, but that doesn't mean you won't see him at the new place, which Slone-Meyers hopes to open in March if her Kickstarter campaign can raise enough seed money.
"I'll come eat at lucie's," he said.
"He'll make appearances," she said.
With a proposed menu of warm noodle bowls and burgers, Lucie's Red Light will be bigger and have a separate room for the Pink Pearl Lounge bar, outdoor space and mermaids.
The Kickstarter, which had a goal of $40,000 raised more than half the money in the first week. Slone-Meyers said higher rent at her existing location was the tipping point to move to the new place, where she will own the building.
A la lucie will close Nov. 30 and, for those who contribute at least $1,000 to the Kickstarter, Slone-Meyers has one last special up her pink sleeve: dinner for four, as a chance to enjoy The Lucie and Louis Show one last time.