Downtown bar closes after 10-year run
After a decade of fun, a downtown bar and restaurant known for its Coney dogs is closing its doors for good.
Ritz Koney Bar & Grille in Grand Rapids, known for its popular hot dogs, karaoke and open mic nights, posted yesterday on Facebook that after 10 years of service, it will be going out of business in the next 30 days. It's located at 64 Ionia Ave. SW.
The bar and grill hosted a number of events and fundraisers, including being the official home bar for the MSU Club of West Michigan and host of the Grand Rapids Sports and Social Club.
The bar and grill is co-owned by brothers Kevin and Keith Ritz.
“We are so proud of the strides our team has made in recent years and the incredible amount of time and effort they have dedicated to making this business so successful,” the post says.
“We established a great brand and a fun dining and bar experience in the Heartside District of downtown Grand Rapids. It was very unique, affordable and provided a comfortable setting for our patrons. We are very proud of that accomplishment.”
Kevin Ritz said he sat down with officials from Grand Rapids-based Rockford Development Group, the building’s landlord, just after Christmas and was notified that the company would not be renewing its lease with Ritz Koney and that it planned to put a new restaurant in its place.
Earlier this week, Ritz received a letter stating he had 30 days to vacate the premises and informed his 10-person staff yesterday.
"The current lease for 64 Ionia had expired," Rockford Development Group said in a statement today. "We showed the current tenant other available options. A new tenant will be announced in the coming weeks."
A 10-year employee of Ritz Koney, who asked not to be named, said, “It’s hurtful to have to leave like this."
Ritz said he isn’t too happy, either.
“My head is still spinning," he said. "This deal has probably been going on for several months, and I would have accepted that if they came to me, and I could have spent the next several months making a more informed decision. You can’t just pick up a restaurant and move.
“I understand it’s business, but it’s a crappy way to do business. They could have told me this months ago, and I could have accepted it.”
The six-story building where Ritz Koney is housed has approximately 4,000 square feet on the first floor. It was most recently purchased in November 2010 by 70 Ionia Associates LLC from Sixty Four Ionia LLC for $1.3 million, according to city records.
Ritz said that for many years, the building was owned by a private owner before going through bankruptcy in 2008 and eventually being purchased by Rockford.
Ritz said that due to the short notice, he won’t have enough time to find another suitable location for Ritz Koney, and with the costs of closing and the tens of thousands of dollars lost, it will be unlikely that he can financially recover and re-open in another location any time soon.
That 30-day notice letter from Rockford was “a death knell.”
“We’re not closing because of any financial reason," he said. "The business has actually been doing quite well. In fact, before all this, we were in the process of investing about $20,000 to $25,000 into the restaurant and re-branding it.
“The bitter part is this last fall I dropped about $19,000 into capital improvements, like air conditioning, a water heater and fixtures. 2015 was going to be the re-branding . . . a breakout year.”
Last 30 days
Ritz said that although he would love to continue with the restaurant, he feels he’s in a fog right now and is just trying to get through the next 30 days.
For now, the bar and grill will stay open until its official closing, which will be on Feb. 23 at 5 p.m.
A farewell party will be held on Feb. 21 to thank loyal patrons.
“It’s a unique niche in that there’s not a lot of other places like that in downtown,” he said. “It’s just a bitter end.”