Bar Les Freres, Billie Jean and I Frattelini Sold; Billie Jean to Close

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Zoë Robinson has sold her beloved group of restaurants to local art leader, Susan Barrett. - JENNIFER SILVERBERG
Zoë Robinson has sold her beloved group of restaurants to local art leader, Susan Barrett.

In the most stunning, post-pandemic shakeup in the St. Louis restaurant scene to date, restaurateur Zoë Robinson has announced the sale of her acclaimed restaurant portfolio to her friend and local art leader, Susan Barrett. Under Barrett's new ownership, Robinson's restaurant's Bar Les Freres and I Fratellini will reopen beginning in early 2022 while Billie Jean will close and be rebranded as a new concept. Barrett will also be naming an "accomplished restaurateur partner" to assist her with the restaurants in the coming weeks.

In a release this morning announcing the sale, Robinson discusses her decision to leave her decades-long career in the business and beloved restaurants as one that involved deep reflection.

"Like many in the restaurant industry, I took time to reflect during the pandemic — to evaluate my own personal happiness and growth," Robinson says. "I’ve been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years, and we were all forced to reinvent ourselves over the last two years. I knew if I ever stepped back from the restaurants, it would require a new owner who would promise to continue the same care and hospitality to our guests. I’ve found that in Susan."

Robinson began her career in the hospitality industry in the early 1980s, working at, then purchasing the Lafayette Square restaurant, Empire. With her keen eye for design and knack for creating stunning spaces ands eclectic menus, she leveraged that success to open the ahead-of-its-time Cafe Zoë, Bobo Noodle House, I Fratellini, Bar Les Freres and Billie Jean, making a name for herself as a trailblazing restaurateur and icon of the city's food and beverage scene.

Robinson insists that her unique brand is in good hands under Barrett's leadership, and she is excited to see what the next chapter holds for these special properties.

“Susan is an aesthetic expert," Robinson says. "What she has already done to the design of I Fratellini is beautiful. I would have wanted to refresh the restaurants before we reopened myself, but I would not have been able to do it to Susan’s level. With her acute eye and art collection, each restaurant will be so special and unique. I would be proud to open any restaurant with her vision.”

As for Barrett, she explains that she is honored to carry on Robinson's legacy and sees her role as balancing a preservation of what the restaurateur has created while pushing the restaurants forward.

"We don’t want to change a lot," Barrett insists. "We are going to preserve what makes the restaurants so special, what guests have come to love, but interject new excitement into the restaurant spaces. The DNA of the environment that Zoë has created at I Fratellini and Bar Les Freres will continue on,” says Barrett. “We’re just putting on a different lipstick.”

As for the thrilling Billie Jean, which will cease operating in its current form under the new arrangement, no details were given on the concept that will replace it. Information on that, in addition to reopening details for Bar Les Freres and I Fratellini, will be released at a future date.

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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the dining editor and restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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