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Posted on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Bill's Beer Garden to open this month in downtown Ann Arbor

By Lizzy Alfs


Bill Zolkowski stands inside the enclosed pavilion for Bill's Beer Garden in downtown Ann Arbor.

Photo courtesy of Phillis Engelbert

Summer is behind us and the leaves are turning autumn colors, but that’s not stopping Mark Hodesh and Bill Zolkowski from opening their outdoor beer garden in downtown Ann Arbor.

After waiting for liquor license approval for several months, the duo got the OK from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission this week to open Bill’s Beer Garden on the parking lot of Hodesh’s Downtown Home & Garden store on the west side of downtown. The grand opening is set for Oct. 18 at 5 p.m.

The store’s parking lot, at the northwest corner of Liberty and Ashley streets, will come to life after store hours with two open-air pavilions with seating, an enclosed pavilion for the bar, live music and other entertainment events.

It will operate Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m., and Sundays from 4 to 9 p.m., Zolkowski said. It will stay open for the season through Dec. 2 and then likely reopen at the end of March.

“We’ll be open (despite the weather),” Zolkowski said. “Even if it’s just me serving beer to two people.”

The beer garden will serve Michigan craft beer, with choices from Arbor Brewing Company, Bell’s, Dark Horse, Wolverine State Brewing, Founders, Original Gravity and others. It also will have a “geographically diverse” wine list, according to a news release.


Patrons at Bill's Beer Garden can bring food over from Mark's Carts. file photo

The relationship between Hodesh and Zolkowski dates back nearly 40 years, when Zolkowski was a busboy and waiter at Hodesh’s newly opened Fleetwood Diner on South Ashley Street in 1975. Zolkowski then opened the import shop Baobob in downtown Ann Arbor, and most recently was the principal of the three high schools in the Plymouth-Canton system.

Hodesh — who opened his outdoor food courtyard Mark’s Carts in May 2011 — said his goal with the beer garden was to create a “community gathering spot” where people could socialize and hang out. He got the idea from a similar beer garden in Brooklyn, NY.

“I never realized what family fun it was,” Hodesh told in February. “I’ve been stuck in bar mode, but these beer gardens have big tables where people can meet each other and kids are welcome and there are card games going on. It is much more open and social.”

Customers at Bill’s Beer Garden will be able to bring food from the courtyard to the beer garden. The food carts are winding down the season and will close in late October or early November.

Visit the Bill’s Beer Garden Facebook page for updates, including wine and beer selections.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


J Lenninger

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

Bill - those look like 10 oz. or 12 ounce "pints" - not even 14 ounces. True? Best of luck with your beer garden. I hear the German Biergarten we were getting in downtown Brighton is on hold pending construction financing.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

I love the idea, but hope this doesn't make the already small home&garden parking lot be impossible to park in. Can I get a beer to carry around the store? Also, I must say: "A beer stand in a parking lot? What could possibly go wrong?" Seriously though, good luck to the business.

Rod Johnson

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.


Spicy Whitey

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

This is a nice idea. I'm glad the state decided to give them their liquor license. Prost!


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 12:11 a.m.

Bill looks like a jolly fellow. I will definitely be stopping by.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

Now drinking booze outside won't be unique to the homeless.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : noon

Those people at the football games with flasks under their coats are homeless? Who knew?

Seasoned Cit

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Hey, Now we don't have to wait for the once a month German Park gatherings to get together with friends.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Thank goodness somebody is thinking in Ann Arbor!


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

Pretty neat idea. Here's hoping the gales of November don't go all Edmund Fitzgerald on it.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 10:19 a.m.

Eddie Fitz is a great beer.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I remember the Fleetwood Diner being open when I was in high school (before 71 ). There were remote Jukeboxes controls at each table which also had speakers built in.The Brown Jug also had this setup.So it should read newly "reopened" FleetWood Diner. Anyone remember Toppers on Liberty at Division next to the Gas Station? Liberty Park now resides there. - Townie from way back

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

Thanks very much for the information! I appreciate it.

Kent Jocque

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

According to this web page,, the diner opened in March 1949. "The Fleetwood was built from a kit by Donald Reid and originally named the Dag-Wood. ... Mark Hodesh bought the Dag-Wood in 1971 and renamed it the Fleetwood" Here's the list of owners as shown on that page. 1949-1966 Donald Reid" 1966-? Robert Brown (a series of owners and non-diner uses) 1971-1980 (?) Mark Hodesh and/or Rich Alford 1980-1983 Kaye Dumsick 1984-1989 Chris Andrews and Bill Close 1989-1991 Kay Ferrell 1992-present George Fotiadis and Adi Demiri -Kent

Marvin Face

Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Nothing but beer and wine? Meh.


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

Good God... Another reason to love beer!


Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Actually the timing is pretty good. It's not called Oktoberfest for nothing. They'll only be a little late. They should do the grand opening with a brass band in lederhosen.