The owners of may be opening the bubbly to toast some welcome news: Grosse Pointe City Council awarded the business a liquor license.
On the surface it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but two businesses — Side Street Diner and the soon-to-open Green Zone Pizza — applied for liquor licenses, and last month council tabled the matter so it could be examined with more scrutiny.
At a special meeting Wednesday night, Side Street Diner was given one of the two licenses the city has available.
The diner, formerly Clairpointe Restaurant, will receive the coveted quota license. Both businesses sought that license, the only one remaining in the city. It has a $1,000 initial fee and can be transferred by its owner anywhere in Wayne County. The city also has a redevelopment license it received when the Downtown Development Authority was created, but that license is nontransferrable and costs $20,000 initially.
The City has had four quota licenses for many years, with three of the four issued to and . Within 48 hours of each other, both Green Zone and Side Street had applied for that fourth quota license.
The owners of both businesses argued their side to council before the vote. Side Street Diner has been open under its new name and ownership since September.
The question had been raised as to why the restaurant owners applied for the license now. At the special meeting co-owners Sheila Taylor and Meghan Spicer explained: Taylor had health issues they were waiting out, and they’d been steadily reworking the business since taking it over, with new decor, equipment and menu changes. Once that dust settled, they decided it was time to think libations.
“This is our only opportunity,” Spicer said of the available license, saying they needed it to continue to grow the business and the investment. Plus, the Village could use a place to enjoy a beer or wine with dinner, they added.
Council wanted more details on improvements and how business was faring. Taylor and Spicer said more improvements were in the works. “We pay as we go,” Spicer said, “(but) we do have big plans.” They reminded council they have deep roots in the community—Spicer used to own —and that they’ve tripled business for breakfast and lunch at Side Street. They now want to move past being a early-bird destination.
Green Zone Pizza’s owner Markus Wiederkehr stepped to the podium with his executive chef John Rodemich. Wiederkehr hadn’t applied for the license until after he signed the lease in December, but always intended to serve beer and wine.
“I knew in my business plan it would help me to have beer and wine.” He cited the investment he’s made into the eatery thus far—a capital investment of $225,000 for designers, architects, menu planning, equipment, construction and expanding the scope of the restaurant by doubling the seating from 30 to nearly 70.
Beer and wine “is part of what Green Zone is,” Rodemich added, adding they’ll have organic and gluten-free beers in addition to standard and specialty pizzas, sandwiches, appetizers and more. They’ll even have two hybrid cars to deliver their food locally when they open in two months, he said, adding that they've throught their business model through extensively.
“(We’re not) a chain, but we’d like it to be,” Rodemich added.
After hearing both sides of the story, residents spoke up overwhelmingly in favor of Side Street Diner. Many welcomed Wiederkehr and thanked him for opening a new eatery in the area, but cited that they were in favor of Side Street because it’s in a great location, has had a lot of work put into it. One woman said she would have loved to have had a beer with her Dinty Moore sandwich the last time she ate at Side Street.
Councilman Chris Walsh said he favored the existing business. “One problem with Green Zone is it’s a business in concept, but not in reality,” he said, as opposed to Side Street, “a business that is up and running with customers.”
“With Side Street,” councilor Donald Parthum said, “we have a known entity.”
Spicer said of the decision, “I’m happy. It was a hard decision to make. ... (but) I hope there’s success for all of us.”