More than 50 restaurant owners and managers from as far away as Dayton, Ohio, crowded into a former Columbus restaurant March 23 in the hopes of snaring some great deals.

“That’s why we’re all here,” said Ted Miller, who operates Outliers Brewing Co. in Indianapolis. “But I doubt I’ll find any good bargains. There’s too many people here, trying to outbid each other.”

The upscale restaurant closed Dec. 20 after first opening 10 years ago in downtown Columbus.

Owner Robin Maiani, who cited a four-month drop in business as the reason for closing her restaurant, did not attend the auction, conducted by Mensendiek’s Auction Service and Real Estate on behalf of the seller.

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“We had a lot of customers, but we couldn’t keep them,” said former Bistro 310 employee Louanne Everroad, who did attend.

“It’s sad,” Everroad said as she watched pieces of her former employer being sold off at auction. “Really sad.”

But the departure of former owner Chef Jeff Maiani, who temporarily left the area to pursue other opportunities, also was a contributing factor, said Gethin Thomas, a chef and restaurant owner himself.

“That restaurant was Chef Maiani’s passion and vision. And when he decided to do something else, that vision and passion left with him,” said Thomas, who operates Henry Social Club.

In addition, several new or renovated eateries have opened with different cuisines in or near the city’s art district, said Brian Good, Hotel Indigo food and beverage manager.

“Downtown has become extremely competitive, so you must provide excellent food and service at affordable prices,” Good said.

As decorative items, glasses and eating utensils were being sold Monday, many of the bidders congregated in rooms away from the auction to chat.

“Most of us want what’s in the kitchen,” Miller said while reviewing a pricing list for commercial culinary items.

He cited high-end items such as ranges, grills, fryers and coolers as the real attraction for out-of-town bidders such as himself.

“If I can save a thousand dollars on one item by coming here, it’s worth the trip,” Miller said.

Mark Wilcox, who bought Jordy McTaggart’s in January, said he wasn’t looking for anything in particular.

“When I come to events like this, I just wait to see whether they’re selling anything that will meet my needs,” said Wilcox, who also operates Scores Sports Bar and Grill.

The auction not only attracted established owners such as Miller and Wilcox, but also those with plans to open an eatery or bar in the near future.

One was Jim Fisdel, a Gosport gun store and shooting range owner who plans to open a restaurant in Owen County.

“I’m hoping to pay pennies on the dollar for what I’ll need,” Fisdel said.

Everroad had her own reason for attending the auction.

“I sold some meat and cheese bowls to the restaurant when I worked here, and I’m hoping to buy them back,” she said.

After opening in 2004, Bistro 310 operated out of the former Peter’s Bay location south of Fourth and Jackson streets in 2004.

While demolition of old Commons Mall forced a year-and-a-half closure, the restaurant reopened in a 3,500-square-foot facility at 310 Fourth St. in May 2009.

Besides a French-inspired American cuisine made with largely local ingredients, Bistro 310 also featured the works of local and regional artists, as well as live jazz and acoustic music.

The property vacated by the restaurant is owned by the city. Last month, the Columbus Redevelopment Commission was informed the owners owed more than $8,000 in rent, taxes and utilities.

As the commission tries to collect that money, the city is currently taking proposals for the property, and may enter into contract negotiations with its top prospect by May, said Heather Pope, the city’s director of redevelopment.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.