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As Blue Heron in East York closes, French restauranter isn’t bidding adieu to industry

As Blue Heron in East York closes, French restauranter isn’t bidding adieu to industry

  • Citing challenges related to the pandemic and an ongoing struggle with liquor licenses, David LeHeron closed Blue Heron on Aug. 27.
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After 30 years of serving French specialties in York County, David LeHeron is hanging up his apron — for now — after closing the Blue Heron on August 27.

David had previously owned and operated Blue Moon in downtown York for 16 years before selling it in 2006.

COVID-19, he says, changed dining habits overnight. Compounded by staffing challenges, digital technologies he couldn’t keep up, and his normal lunch crowd now working from home, David knew the clock was ticking on his roomy French restaurant in East York.

“I think I had a good product at a good price,” he says, “but that’s not enough.”

To top it off, a liquor license, which David was once offered for $43,000 and turned down for being too expensive, now cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

David found less and less time for his first passion – cooking – and more and more of a headache on his hands. With his lease ending, the decision to close wasn’t too difficult.

As for what’s next? He might give it a few years, but he’s already cooking up something in his head.

The restaurant life

David’s never been afraid of exploring uncharted territory.

After moving from France to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, he bought his first restaurant in York — the Blue Moon — despite having zero professional cooking experience.

The restaurant served a selection of vegetarian dishes and espresso, a unique combination for a York eatery in 1989.

David liked the fresh edge and expanded it, adding his own French flair.

“We were the only French restaurant around for a long time,” he says.

David sold Blue Moon in 2006 and tried to listen to his mother’s advice: Get a real job.

The droll of office work, though, couldn’t spark him like the sizzle of steaming mussels.

After a year, David was back in the game.

He leased a little eight-table spot on South Queen Street in York Township, opened the Blue Heron, and began biking to work.

“It was awesome,” he says.

Room to expand

In 2012, David saw an opportunity to expand at a much larger space in East York.

As he built his restaurant up on the outskirts of York, city life was moving in downtown. Over the next decade, York began to see a reawakening of downtown restaurants, galleries, and shopping opportunities.

“Thirty years ago, officials were talking about restaurant row and this and that,” he says. “It finally happened the last 10 years.”

Thriving, walkable districts took shape, but David and Blue Heron missed out on the scene.

That, compounded with his pandemic hangover and liquor license woes, tolled the death nell.

David was ready to move on. 

‘Wired to the restaurant life’

While his future is unclear, David thinks it will probably involve a new restaurant in the next five years, ideally in a walkable location, surrounded by foot traffic and other businesses – part of an active downtown scene.

He envisions something smaller, a solid team of staff around him, and a simplified menu. 

Whatever it looks like, at 55, David knows his next endeavor will need to be soon.

He can’t see himself flinging sacks of potatoes out of trucks and enduring the other physical demands of running a restaurant in his 70s.

Despite the hardships of running his own restaurant and business, David has no interest in ever working for someone else.

As a restaurant owner, “I am the job,” he says. “Sometimes it seems like my brain is wired to the restaurant life.”