Keeping up with the Joneses


The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are a throwback to the way the Holiday Bar’s exterior once looked. Courtesy The Holiday Bar

Part of the west side of Grand Rapids for more than 100 years, The Holiday Bar is getting a makeover.

Sitting at 801 Fifth St. NW since 1959, and established at 585 Stocking Ave. NW in the Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuaries building in 1905, Holiday Bar’s owner, Todd Wawee, determined all the recent investments in the nearby west-side neighborhood have made renovations and a rebrand much needed.

Included in the renovation is a new building exterior and a larger outdoor beer garden, plus a new full-service kitchen with an updated menu. The exterior work is underway and the new beer garden is planned to open May 21. The beer garden will accommodate 125 patrons and will focus on canned beers, along with a full bar.

“We want to stay fresh and relevant and keep up with the Joneses and all the excitement on the west side,” Wawee said. “It’s remarkable and exciting, and we just want to stay relevant in the marketplace.”

Wawee took ownership of the bar a little more than five years ago from his cousin — the bar has been in the family since its beginning — and said up until this major venture, he was steadily investing in small upkeep projects. He didn’t disclose the amount of the current project’s investment, but said while it likely pales in comparison to other new west-side developments, it is significant for The Holiday Bar.

“It’s been a commitment during the last couple of years, and we’ll continue to invest, too,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s insignificant. But for us, a small neighborhood business, it’s been significant over the past several years.”

The new exterior of the bar features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, which Wawee said is reminiscent of how the building once looked.

“I wanted to go back to how the building was built and to capture how the building used to look,” he said.

Wawee said he hopes the new full kitchen and menu rebranding will turn The Holiday Bar into more of a dining destination. He said the focus will remain on being a bar, but with great food options.

The menu largely will focus on heavy appetizers, sandwiches and burgers. Fresh salads and house-made soups also will be a part of the menu. Some items will be “throwback classics,” such as mushroom caps filled with escargot sautéed in garlic butter.

The Holiday Bar hired two chefs to rework the menu and expects to double its staff to 40 employees in the coming months.

“It’s not going to be huge, but it will be something we can execute great, 100 percent of the time,” Wawee said. “I’ve always liked places to go and eat and … have a great drink.”

While neighbors and regular customers have been a bit disturbed by the construction in the area, Wawee said the support of what’s happening in the neighborhood and at the bar has been encouraging.

“We feel we have a real tie to the west side. The bar has been in the family for 100-some years; we have some deep roots and will continue to have them,” he said. “The time is ripe to have this change. There’s a ton of excitement and buzz, and we want to be a part of it.

“We want to be here another 100 years, and we need to take advantage of what’s happening.”

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