New in town
|By ALLAN I. ROSS|
HopCat / Zoobie's / Travelers PubOn Monday, HopCat-East Lansing held a ceremonial groundbreaking — and fittingly, it was a hop bine planting. (Hops are the aromatic plants used to flavor some beers.) The restaurant/brewpub opens this August on the ground floor of the mixed-use development, The Residences.
Sam Short is the director of new projects for BarFly Ventures, the management team that owns HopCat, along with four Grand Rapids establishments. Short said that HopCat — which will be approximately 8,400 square feet, including its second floor mezzanine level — was originally going to move into the St. Anne Loft mixed-use building next door, but he said The Residences was “a better location and a better space.”
Incidentally, Short is also part of the consulting group Triterra, which is revitalizing the Old Town bar Zoobie’s Tavern, which closed four years ago. He said the space needs “a fair bit of work” but is on track to open at the end of May.
“We’re keeping the original bar and building the rest of the interior back up,” he said. “It had nearly a century of use, with new stuff built over old stuff instead of remodeling, so we’re taking the time to do this right. We want to get these beautiful old buildings cleaned up and opened again. We’re passionate about Old Town.”
Triterra also owns the Old Town Temple, but Short said there are no immediate plans for that building.
Meanwhile he said BarFly is still looking at locations for the proposed Lansing Brewing Co. that was also supposed to open in August, but so far hasn’t been able to secure a space.
And speaking of beer, the newly renamed Travelers Pub in Bath (formerly the Double Header) is being converted into a brewpub. If the name rings a bell, that’s because it’s a spinoff of sorts of the Travelers Club International Restaurant and Tuba Museum, which closed last year in Okemos.
Former Travelers Club general manager Stan Letts leads the management team that is launching the new enterprise. He said the fledgling brewery will make its own beers — under brewmaster William White, who owned Travelers Club — but will keep popular domestics on tap as well.
The beer menu will include its Park Lake Pilsner, Mudbogger Brown and Rose Lake Red. Letts will also start playing with the menu at the adjacent Jo’s Diner, which shares a roof with the pub.
“I’m going for the farm-to-table concept, and I’m going to start introducing some of the items that used to be on the Travelers Club menu,” Letts said. “Stir-fries, gyros — the more popular dishes. Eventually, if things go well, I hope to buy the building.”
Letts managed Travelers Club from the mid-‘90s to 2002, but he says he always worked for White in some capacity, including at White Bros. Music in Okemos.
“He taught me everything I know about this industry,” he said.
According to a press release, Travelers Pub will be the first brewpub in Clinton County.
“We want to keep the regular customers happy with what they are used to,” said Letts, “and gradually introduce some new beers and bar snacks as we slowly transition to the new brewpub concept.”