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Restaurant Scene Undergoing Change as Bay City Market Ripens for Chains

City EDC Looks to DoubleTree Hotel-Conference Center to Spark Future Growth

March 6, 2004       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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City officials hope closed Hereford & Hops is soon reopened to lead Midland Street entertainment-dining district.

      The restaurant shuffle is underway in Bay County.

      The gaps left by the closing of Hereford and Hops and Hooters is sure to be quickly filled by the June 1 opening of DoubleTree, a revitalized Lantern, now called Kingfish Restaurant and Tiki Room, and reported planned opening here of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar.

      The City of Bay City's Economic Development Corporation, headed by banker David Green, is hoping for quick revival of the closed Hereford & Hops restaurant. The EDC is moving legally to protect it $428,000 loan receivable from the P.O.W.E.R. Fund. And Independent Bank is reportedly talking to real estate brokers about listing the property for sale to recoup its approximately $3 million mortgage investment.

      Real estate advisors note that brew pubs around Michigan have not been universally successful. The Big Buck Brewery has struggled with locations near Detroit on I-75, Gaylord and Grand Rapids. And the Black Forest in Frankenmuth has gone through several ownerships. Capital costs and management have been cited as keys to this high risk area of the restaurant business.

      The city P.O.W.E.R. fund has a $4 million loan riding on success of the DoubleTree, which will have indoor and outdoor riverfront restaurants, a lobby bar and ballroom seating 550 for meals and 950 theater style.

      Cracker Barrel on Wilder near the freeways is off to a rousing start, according to all reports, and Hooters may be reopening soon under thecorporate banner but will soon find competition for its wings from the Buffalo franchise, said to be seriously comtemplating a new building on Wilder Road near State Street.

      Rumors abound that Olive Garden is seriously seeking a Bay City location, perhaps on Euclid Avenue. Local business advocates decry the trend toward chains, noting that the profits go out of the community. Others say any development is good, bringing added tax base and jobs.

      "Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar is one of the Top 10 Fastest-Growing Restaurant Chains in the country, and our concept is more than just a NY-style wing joint with 12 signature sauces," says Sally Smith, president and CEO.

      "We are also a sports bar, complete with a fullspicy, flavorful menu and fast-casual grill and sports bar concept. Our commitment to our customers and our brand, coupled with the discipline of an experienced management team puts us in the position to support unlimited expansion and growth of the Buffalo Wild Wings system."

      The Buffalo Wild Wings chain, based in Minneapolis, has 250 restaurants in 29 states, including franchise locations in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Clinton Township near Detroit.

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