Restaurateur, former city council candidate Crafaik dies
Longtime Michael's Bistro owner and former politician J. Michael Crafaik III, 37, died Saturday, December 13 at UVA hospital, according to an obituary in today's Daily Progress.
His tragic death of a self-inflicted wound followed a long struggle with bipolar disorder, according to his step-mother Kay Neeley, who told the Hook on Friday that there was "no chance of his recovery."
A 1993 UVA grad, Crafaik made a name for himself not long after graduating by running for city council candidate in his mid-20s in 1996, and again in 1998. But he is perhaps best known for Michael's Bistro, the eponymous restaurant on the Corner that he started before getting into politics–- and which was among the first restaurants to offer fine dining and microbrews in that part of town.
In 2000, Crafaik successfully gained the chair of the city’s Republican Party, but on the night he won that post, he was involved in a dust-up at Mono Loco restaurant. He filed a criminal assault charge against the Republican leader he ousted.
Pundits couldn't help but notice that Crafaik achieved his greatest political success in the same year that George W. Bush won the presidency with a national Republican Party very different from Crafaik's vision.
While Bush was directing spending to religious organizations and fighting such potentially life-saving technologies stem-cell research and–- some might argue– also leading it into the politcal doldrums now affecting it, Crafaik was pressed for a new kind of Republicanism, one founded on freedom. Crafaik was part of a philosphical movement that considered the best government to be the one that gets out of the way
In 2005, Crafaik himself became the target of charges after an altercation with an employer. He was eventually acquitted, and spent some time in a mental health facility in Williamsburg.
In July of this past summer, Michael’s Bistro shut down briefly after Crafaik and his partner, Chuck Adcock, had a falling out. After a large-scale staff walkout, the restaurant reopened in August.
Friends say Crafaik's troubles were dwarfed by his personal qualities which include intelligence, creativity, and kindness.
"He was charming, funny, and I liked working for him," says former Michael's Bistro employee Haley Kreutzer, echoing a sentiment voiced by many. "I still can't believe he's gone."
–originally published at 3:23pm Friday, December 12, under the headline: "Restaurateur, former candidate Crafaik mortally wounded."
–last updated 2:20pm, Sunday, December 14