Mickey Bask | File photo by Rūta Smith

Mickey Bakst announced his retirement Monday, resigning from his post as general manager of the Charleston Grill ahead of the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel’s anchor fine-dining restaurant prior to next months scheduled reopening. The Charleston Grill has been temporarily closed since the onset of the pandemic.

Bakst has been at The Charleston Grill since 2004. That role coupled with his contributions outside of the restaurant have earned him the title of Charleston’s “Unofficial Mayor.”

Bakst said he had been thinking about retirement for the last three years, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that decision.

“I did not resign to go somewhere else; I retired. COVID is an issue, and it’s time to help the community more,” Bakst said. “I have been part of The Charleston Grill for 16 years, and it has been unconditionally the greatest joy of my career. It was the hardest decision of my life to make, and this is the saddest I have felt in years.” 

In 2009, the 68-year-old GM and philanthropist founded Feed the Need, an organization that aims to eliminate some of the economic burden that area soup kitchens and shelters are facing in today’s economic environment. Five years later, Bakst founded Teach the Need, an organization committed to training at risk teenagers in the skills needed to work in the front of the house in Charleston restaurants.

Bakst is also the co-creator of Ben’s Friends. Along with Steve Palmer of the Charleston-based Indigo Road restaurant group, Bakst started the support group helping food-and-beverage professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction in honor of Ben Murray, a chef who took his own life after struggling with alcoholism for years.

A PR representative said the restaurant is slated to reopen on October 1, and it plans to announce a replacement for Bakst later this week.

Bakst’s list of contributions to the Charleston restaurant community are lengthy, and his presence will be missed.

“My greatest pride has been being a part of the Charleston restaurant community and using that to help the surrounding areas,” he said. “I’m proud of the great people who have worked for me.”

If you are interested in donating to Ben’s Friends, Feed the Need or Teach the Need, send an email to mickeybakst52@gmail.com.