Grand Rapids – 801 5th St. N.W.
111-year-old bar making comeback amidst West Side revitalization
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — The Holiday Bar has been in Todd Wawee’s family for 111 years.
Wawee’s grandfather, John Arsulowicz, opened the business in 1905 in the building where Arsulowicz Brothers Mortuaries is now located. The bar moved to its current location, at 801 5th St. NW, in 1959.
He bought the business from his mother’s cousin in 2009. Since then, the surrounding West Side neighborhood has been undergoing a revitalization. A major transformation in the works is a $17 million mixed-use project anchored by New Holland Brewing Co., at Bridge Street and Turner Avenue NW. It’s less than a mile from The Holiday Bar.
Wawee looks at the 40,000-square-foot brewpub, micro-distillery and full service restaurant less as competition and more as another reason for people to visit the neighborhood.
“My mother’s family has been on the West Side since they migrated from Poland and I have an incredible tie to Grand Rapids – It’s home to me,” said Wawee, about this connection to the neighborhood. “It is our goal to continually evolve with our neighborhood and to build on the exciting development happening on the West Side.”
In the last three years, Wawee has spent more than $100,000 to renovate the bar. He added an outdoor Bier Garden in 2014, added a state-of-the-art kitchen in late 2015, and now an exterior renovation will add floor-to-ceiling windows and doors reminiscent of how the original building was constructed. Another upgrade was the addition of a ramp to make the bar wheelchair accessible.
The makeover will be finished next month as the longtime pub completes its transition to full restaurant bar and grill in early summer.
The menu will expand to feature hand-formed burgers, salads, gourmet sandwiches and homemade soups. There will even be throwback classics like mushroom caps filled with escargot sautéed in garlic butter, with gourmet cheese and house made bread crumbs, served in a cast iron skillet.
As part of the new launch, Wawee has hired two chefs and is doubling the staff to 40 workers.
The Bier Garden behind the restaurant will open May 21 with a special patio party featuring limited-supply drafts and a free cook-out for patrons. This patio option can seat up 125 people al fresco, and includes a full service bar with a focus on canned craft beers.
Wawee has plans to eventually add brunch and catering services.