Sisters Gourmet Bistro Owner Closes Shop

Sisters Gourmet Bistro, located at 719 Main St. in Van Buren, shut down after normal business hours Sunday night (May 11), according to restaurant owner Richard Hodo.

“We serve alcohol,” Hodo said. “We were the first ones to serve alcohol in 65 years.”

Hodo said the restaurant had more than 100 reservations on Mother’s Day, but after they finished work Sunday evening, he told his 20 employees that he was shutting down the restaurant and gave them their final checks.

When 5NEWS asked Hodo why he closed the restaurant, Hodo cited frustrations with Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman.

He said he hadn’t gotten any support from the mayor, and he’s tired of “fighting the system.”

One of the incidents Hodo went into detail on was during the recent Main Street Music Festival. He wanted to put a beer garden on property across the street from his restaurant. Hodo said the mayor wouldn’t allow him to do so.

5NEWS contacted the mayor for a statement on the issue, but one was not immediately given.

Hodo also claims that he’s had no problems with the Van Buren City Council.

Unsure of whether or not he’ll sell the property, Hodo did note that he was overwhelmed from the response of customers who want to see the restaurant stay open.

When asked if he might consider reopening the business, he was unsure but said, “My wife and I are in our seventies, and we need to slow down a little bit anyway.”

52 comments

    • observer82ab

      He closed. He is without income also. I was down there about 2 weeks ago. Main Street is dead there. Half the businesses were empty. It used to be a very bustling area wit shops and stores. 10 years has seen Van Buren antique district dry up and die. A sign of the times.

  • Taxpayer

    Van Buren streets are terrible…just drive down 28th Street past the four way stop close to Tyson Foods. That area is surrounded by some of the biggest tax payers (road taxes) in the county!

    • Dick Peters

      Van Buren is an over taxed cesspool full of cops just waiting to ride your bumper…pull you over…and harass you. And now they want to raise the tax rate above 10% to build a bigger jail…again. Seems like an awful big jail for a dry county!! Lol

      • Burr Edson

        You may be avoiding jury duty, lallaloopsy, but you are also avoiding a civic duty. I only wish I could serve on jury duty, but haven’t been lucky enough to be chosen.

      • CAE

        In my 12 years as a registered voter, I’ve never been called. Your statement seems like a cop-out to me.

  • anonymous

    Since he clearly doesn’t need the money. hopefully he qill donate the foods to one or more facilities that feed the needy

  • Jim

    So he has a tantrum and dismissed 20 people from their jobs? “Thank you for your service and entrusting your livelihoods in me but I don’t even have the courtesy or fortitude to forewarn you that I’m about to toss you and your depend ants out into the street !” All because the mayor wouldn’t let him set up bar across the street? Was he running a restaurant or a liquor store?

  • Confused

    If Mr. Hodo has no problem with the city council, why has he not brought his concerns to them at a monthly meeting? Maybe the Mayor had no choice in this decision of approving the beer garden. Would the beer garden have kept the business open? If the food was so great that has been stated, the beer garden was not needed. I don’t know the Hodo’s but, it sounds and looks like an ego trip. Or the business was going to close anyway and just looking for an excuse. So blame it on someone else!

  • Marilyn

    Mr. Hodo is a good business man. He was trying to keep business here in VB. so we didn’t have to go to Ft. Smith. VanBuren does NOT support VanBuren. I had a business here and I know from experience. Who do you all think puts on Old Timers Day, and music attractions. It had nothing to do with liquor, it was to our entertainment. He did not allow drunks in the restaurant. He was a gentleman, and quietly helped anyone that needed him. I understand him being tired and needing to slow down. I respect him for all that he has done through SISTERS. I have to defend a good man when I read the negative remarks here. If he remains closed, I am sad. But if he reopened, I’ll be the first there. ,,,, I challenge any of you Nay Sayers to open a business here that’s a little different. You will see. This is Wal-Mart country. God Bless Mr. Hodo& his wife and family/friends. VanBuren, support the hard workers who are working for YOU.

  • Kelly

    I’ve lived in the Ft. Smith / Van Buren are since the mid 80′s and neither town seems to grow with the times. I can very much understand Mr. Hodo’s issues with the town and banging his head against a brick wall when only wanting to grow his business and give Van Buren more/better entertainment options. Anymore what is the point of a “dry” county when you can go across the bridge and get whatever liquor you might want? Why not change Crawford County’s status to allow liquor and then the tax revenue from those sales can go to help grow our county instead of the surrounding counties. All of that being said, I do not drink nor do I go to bars, but I see nothing wrong with our county having them for people to enjoy. There are not a lot of options in the Ft. Smith /Van Buren area for entertainment . The best thing to come along to our area in a long time has been the Movie Lounge. With all the amazing riverfront space these two towns have and the beautiful down town areas we have much to offer if our leaders would get rid of their close minded attitudes and allow for growth!

    • Marilyn

      I agree with you Kelly. And cmc. Those of you who want to trash him,,, please don’t go see his Christmas lights this Christmas. You might see something good. A town or city that doesn’t grow will die. I am not a promoter for liquor, but I do encourage growth. The man that owns the liquor stores across the bridge, lives in Crawford county. The good ole boy system has kept new business out of VanBuren for a long time now. They control the lack of growth around here. Enjoy yourselves at Micky D’s y’all.

  • Nic

    I’m thinking if you’re defending this person you must Be a friend of his. He did wrong. There are now 20 people who still have bills and responsibilities that have no job and had no warning about being unemployed. Having and running your own business is hard no matter the location.. He sounds like a big crybaby to me, going off stomping his feet. What a loser.

    • Terry

      Was it the employee’s money or the customer’s money that started this business? He gave them employment for many years, he doesn’t owe them anything!!!! When you put your money up for investment then it’s your right to call the shots!!!

  • cmc080704

    Sisters was a wonderful establishment, my husband and I and some friends went there several times. Great entertainment, a place to dance and let go a little bit, to relax and enjoy yourself. We live in Fort Smith, but will miss Sisters Bistro. Btw, I NEVER saw anyone drunk or unruly there, Mr.Hodo did not allow it, as far as we could tell. P.S. Van Buren is like Fort Smith, too many “good ole boys” and “friends of friends in high places” are running the town, shaking hands with one hand and padding the palm of the other one…

    • ep7575

      Apparently those of you who never saw drunk or unruly people there weren’t around when Richard had to much makers mark. He is a mean, ugly and nasty drunk and would treat the employees like dirt and if you had a problem with it he would not so kindly show you the door. All you people who talk about how great is obviously don’t know what your talking about. Sure he has done great things for the community but That’s all a show. Yes he has helped people out, he even tried helping me out once but I kindly told him no thank you I will manage because once he does help you out he thinks he owns you. I have seen it over and over again and even one of his relatives told me don’t ever let him offer to help you cause you will regret it.

  • ep7575

    I am so glad to hear this. I worked there right as they were getting their liquor license and worked for well over a year. R.H. is a a-hole. He only does stuff to make himself look better in the community. He flashes his WIFE’S money around, before he married her he sold insurance– I didn’t realize that was such a lucrative career especially in a town the size of van burden. There was so much stuff going on behind the scenes the labor board would have a field day. I was made to forge documents on previous employees that had been fired to keep them from getting unemployment benefits, when I realized what I was doing I refused, I was told either do it or you can join them. I worked a lot of hours there, so many that you would think I had 2 full time jobs and a part time. When they decided they didn’t wanted to stop paying my over time, they gave me a title and put me on salary which got even worse, they didn’t keep their end of the bargain. I was not supposed to work more than 45-50 hours a week, if I worked less than 70 hrs a week it was like a vacation, my week usually ran at least 80hrs plus. I was given a key and the security alarm code and no matter What time of day or night or where I was if he called me I was expected to be there to take care of the problem. Oh and they were basing my salary on 40hrs a week at $7 an hour which when divided by the hours I worked I wasn’t even making min wage for a server and I didn’t get tips. I could go on and on about this outstanding citizen but I have already wasted enough time. I would like to mention one thing, for those of you who remember when sisters first opened there was no hodo around except to collect rent. The sisters who opened the restaurant spent all of their savings to do so. R.H. slowly made his way in as the liquor license was being brought into question and after that he took over and stole their business, their dream out from under them and when the topic came up they were basically told well if you want it back then pay me x amount of dollars and you can have it back which they couldn’t afford. You don’t have to believe me I don’t care I was there and witnessed it first hand. You may ask why I stayed so long, I needed a job. And this pillar of the community who is mad about not having a beer garden, do you people not realize that the spot he is referring to was the site of a tragic accident and is a memorial park for those who perished. Would you like for me to throw a party on your loved one’s grave? Of course I am sure he was thinking of these people’s families, nothing like a little liquor and drunks to lighten up a somber occasion. And as far as keeping main street alive, I beg to differ, if alcohol is the only reason for you to go down there then maybe they should start holding AA meetings in sisters

    • Larry

      You need only listen to this former employee that commented in this venu and that tells the whole story on this so called good former employer of Sisters Liquor store!!

  • Elaphas

    All of you on here crying about 20 jobs lost need to refocus your attention on Barack Obama and the democrat party – who are responsible for millions of jobs lost and a broken health care insurance system. Not to mention the neverending tide of lies they spew everyday through their rotten mouths and their hired goons, the media.

    • Burr Edson

      Wow. That is funny. I try to focus my attention to the George Bush era. I regretfully voted for that idiot twice. What did that get us in Iraq? TRILLIONS of dollars spent to Pakistan and neighboring countries who actually despise the U.S. They were even harboring Osama bin Laden!
      So we “won” the Iraq war, eh? At the cost of so many of our soldiers lives, and their loved ones, it BEGS the question if you are selective in your memory??? You can put a price on a JDAM bomb, but can’t on an American heroes life.

      If you count how much we blew pumping up Iraq, you will see that we could have funded Obama-care several times over. Before you start calling me a libtard or liberal, know this—I didn’t vote for Obama.

      In regards to Sisters Bistro, Its a shame that the owner took to closing the business without letting his employees know. If that is indeed the case, then good riddance. I do like to support local restaurants over chains, but it’s a travesty to not give advance notice to that many employees.

      • Terry

        Most of the time he couldn’t get anyone to pass a drug test, quit commenting on things you don’t know about! It’s very clear in all the years I have watched you that you are very Liberal, the only thing worse than a Liberal is one who is and denies it, that makes you a liar!

    • Go figure

      Elaphas your hilarious! Do you blame all your problems on the media and Democratic Party? The economy was in horrible shape when Bush left office. Due to lack of government regulation the mortgage lenders became greedy and we all know what happened with that. That was in the Bush era. You want to blame the liberal media when Fox News has been the most watched news network for 12 years in row. We still are one of the leaders in exporting goods and services. Our problem is we consume more than any other nation and consume more than we export, which, leaves us in debt. Your a slave to your debtor. Blame somebody else for your problems.

  • Confused

    Yeah, just think of all the revenue the open beer garden would bring during the Old Timer’s Day and other festivities on Main St. Growth is good but, be careful what you ask for! What’s next? Legalize marijuana sale, prostitution. Think about it if you take your children to these festivities. Would you want it there? Somebody had to take a stand!

  • lallaloopsy

    I wonder what he will do with all that liquor? I like your thinking confused, legalize pot and if they legalize prostitution that means I can quit giving it away and charge for it. I could finally become a contributing member of the community. Oh my futures so bright, maybe now I can afford some shades to wear to Ward off the glare

  • Mbht

    Well, we worry about serving alcohol, and this area being a good place to raise your kids,,,, what happened in Arkansas over the weekend. What has been in the news for the past 48hours? I’m not talking about the rain. We are having to accept more & more. We have high crime here. I just don’t hear much about any of that. And this is the bible belt??? I wish I saw more of the bible here. When I moved here over 20years ago, and dropped over $100,000 in this town, people wanted to run us out of town, because we were new comers. My husband was born in Ft.Smith, and I grew up up in Okla. we were treated with racism too. We’re white! I know how hard it is to please the public. Wish some of you did too. But I will continue to try to look for the good in people. Because of the bible, I’ve been taught that.

      • .

        Definition of Hoax: “a humorous or malicious deception.” You are a hoax. The Bible teaches love and goodness. Good day to you.

  • Larry

    He never should have been allowed to serve Alcohol,He deserves what he gets very greety person just ask the other bussiness owners in the downtown district!!

  • shelley

    When you treat people badly
    refusal to serve homosexuals blame the Govoner take a look in in mirror leaving your employees with nothing bunch of not a nice person

  • shelley

    What does alcohol have to do with any of this? A mean man. With no regard for any of his employees!!!!! That what it boils down to! Refuses to serve homosexuals. Blames the Mayor? Happy retirement to him! Pleases let the employees who worked for this jerk the unemployment they deserve!

  • Wes M

    I thought he had so much business that he could pick and choose his customers based on whether their morals fit his life view.

  • Just_a_friend

    What a rat this guy is. Not a smart business man either. You do business in fort smith or NWA. Not van buren! Sorry you couldn’t serve alcohol. Go cry a river.

  • some guy in town

    I have lived in Van Buren since 96 the only good thing to come to this town has been a Walmart. A lot of people would rather go to ft. smith for the movies, no one in this town supports your local businesses. Van Buren is going no where fast and i hate to say that.

  • Thanks for your tax money!

    A quick 10-minute web search finds that there is a direct correlation between a county’s “dry” status and its economic viability. Continue to thump your bible when making economic decisions and suffer the consequences.

  • Tom

    If everyone is so worried about the lost jobs all you have to do is buy the place and re-open it!
    And boo hoo to all the whiners bitching about the alcohol!
    Grow up

  • Give me a break

    I have a feeling he made some bad business decision and now he’s trying to put it off on the mayor not letting him have a beer garden. He doesn’t sound like he is a very good owner anyway. Who has a successful business and just decides to close shop without trying to sell it first. It’s kind of ironic that he descriminated against the gays and lesbians and wouldn’t let them hold a meeting there yet he too is being discriminated against. When he first applied for a liquor license there were churches that wanted to boycott his business including the one I was going to and then he turned around and did the same to other people. How easily we forget. Couldn’t get a beer garden,give me a break.

  • Karen Collins

    Every time we went there we were treated as unwelcome guest!!!! (Twice was all it took). Not sorry it closed. Guess they couldn’t stand to share the wealth. Greedy a**. Look how you treat your customers and employees.

  • Terry

    Nasty comments about people and their character, i know Richard and Helen, fine people who do a lot for the community. No one appreciates them, that’s why Van Buren is still a hick, good ole boy, town. Shameful.

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