“After 51 years of business we are closing our doors,” the announcement read. “We have enjoyed being part of your lives. Thank you for your patronage and friendship. With gratitude, John & family.”
Owner/operator John Kobus was there for the bar’s final night, New Years Eve, which he called “bittersweet.” He said his biggest regret about the decision to close is not warning employees or longtime customers beforehand.
“I’ve been thinking about getting out for a while, but I only made the decision last Wednesday, when the insurance was due,” Kobus said. “And in this business, you really can’t let anyone know. I feel terrible, because we had a lot of loyal customers who were like family. A dysfunctional family, maybe, but this really was a second home for many of them.”
Kobus’ father bought the business in 1965 when it was called the Cotton Club and was positioned near the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Holmes Road. In 1975, that building was leveled and then rebuilt in its current location, a bit farther back on the property, away from the intersection. Kobus, 60, started working there when he was 18.
“I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, and I felt like I needed to do something else,” Kobus said. “I’ve been busy helping (my wife and daughter) out with their business, which kept me away from the bar. And with a bar, you really need to be there every day.”
For the last few years, Kobus has helped his wife, Wendy Kobus, and his daughter, Kelly Toland, with their East Lansing-based bakery, Le Bon Macaron, which makes authentic French pastries. It has a second location in Grand Rapids, and Kobus said they’re eyeing a third location in that city, which would require a move there. For now, though, he’s focused on selling the Colonial building and property to either a developer or an aspiring restaurateur who can make it their own. The 3,700-square-foot building is listed for $849,000, which includes furniture, fixtures and equipment and a Class C liquor license.
“It’s still a viable business, but it needs someone with passion and some good ideas,” Kobus said. “One of the things we should have done is put more of an emphasis on the food. We didn’t make an effort to change with the times.”