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Transforming the Unicorn

Old Town institution, under new owners, to get ‘extreme dive bar makeover’


Rendering of the new Unicorn Lounge
Courtesy image

WEDNESDAY, June 14 — One of Old Town’s oldest institutions is getting a new look this week.

Lansing development company Gillespie Group announced yesterday that it has purchased the Unicorn Tavern and will give it a “72-hour extreme dive bar makeover.” The revamped bar will be named Unicorn Lounge.

Tommy Malvetis purchased the Unicorn Tavern in 1978, when it was called the Shamrock and Old Town was still a rough neighborhood filled with crime, drugs and prostitution. He renamed it the Unicorn Tavern at the suggestion of a lesbian drummer, hoping shake off some of bar’s rougher patrons. Malvetis died in December at 94.

“We see what Tommy meant to the community and what the community meant to him. We don’t take this lightly,” said Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group. “We will honor him with a picture and tribute to him on display in the new bar.”

The Gillespie Group’s Lansing projects include several apartment complexes and mixed-use developments, as well as the Lansing Brewing Co. The Unicorn Lounge is the company’s first investment in Old Town.

The 2,000 square-foot space includes a stage for live music. Gillespie Group plans to continue the live music when it re-opens.

“In engaging the community, our current customers and residents, it came across loud and clear that people in the community are looking for a place with consistent live music and dancing,” Gillespie said. “We want to provide that place.”

A statement from the Gillespie Group said it is hoping to preserve the Unicorn Tavern’s dive bar vibe and that the Unicorn Lounge will focus on “beer and booze your grandpa drinks.”

The revamped bar also includes a revamped web presence, including a new website (unicornoldtown.com), Twitter account (@unicornoldtown) and Instagram account (@unicornoldtown).

Gillespie Group will revamp the bar with the help of Wieland construction company and a team of over 50 additional local contractors. The 72-hour makeover will take place Sunday through Tuesday, with its doors opening to the public at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 23.


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