You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Oct 13, 2009 : 6:48 p.m.

Leopold Bros., Rush Street sites due for makeovers

By Dan Meisler


Two high profile Main Street restaurants are getting new looks -- the former Leopold Brothers space and the Rush Street martini bar.

Andrus McDonald, a University of Michigan graduate and former owner of bars in Detroit, is part of ownership groups involved in both spots. He said he's focusing his efforts on Ann Arbor because of the unique clientele the university brings.

"It's highly educated and more worldly, and there's a natural revolving base of people," he said. "You have the opportunity to build something that can be around for 30 years."

The 10,400-square-foot former Leopold Brothers space a few blocks south of downtown will become the Vintage banquet and event facility. McDonal said he expects a liquor license to be approved by the state within weeks, after which point he'll start marketing.

He said the ability to convert the bare brick walls and concrete floors into any type of decor will be a selling point for people looking to escape the standard hotel environment for their events.

"We can build you anything you want there. That's sort of a niche," he said. "There's a dearth of places to have large party downtown."

McDonald said Vintage may also be used as a concert venue, and that the costs to rent the space would depend on the event, with the minimum being a few hundred dollars.

He said an LLC involving himself and building owner Jerry Spears is on the verge of closing a purchase of the building. According to state records, real estate investor Jeff Starman of Arch Realty is also a member of Vintage Club LLC.

Spears, who had been planning a hotel or condos at various times at the site, said he doesn't expect to develop anything there in the near future.

"We don't have any development plans for that site right now," he said.


Spears also owns the building that houses Rush Street.

McDonald, who purchased the restaurant as part of a group in August, said he's planning a complete makeover of the space sometime next year. But first he's developing a new menu that will be ready by the end of this year.

He said he has "no idea" how the nightspot will look after renovations in the summer or what the new menu will contain.

"Whatever we do in the winter semester well may be a teaser," McDonald said.

McDonald has owned bars in Detroit, including Envy, but sold his stakes in them a few years ago. He's also involved with a new club in Detroit called Honey, but is focusing his day-to-day efforts in Ann Arbor, he said.

Spears said he's confident about the long term prospects of the restaurant and the banquet facility.

"I believe both spaces will do just fine," he said.

Leopold Brothers, a brewery that grew many of its ingredients in the same Main Street building, closed in May 2008. The building has been empty since.

Freelance reporter Dan Meisler can be reached at



Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 3:13 p.m.

Curious that McDonald doesn't mention that he and Starman own The Fifth Quarter night club. In fact Starman (Madison Property Company) and Spears (Amvest) both have their offices above the bar on Fifth street. It will be interesting to see what comes of the venture. It was a real loss to to downtown when Leopold's was run out of town due to unrealistic rents. Now the place sits vacant. I guess Spears thinks McDonald's business concepts will provide him with the financial windfall that he's been looking to get out of that space for a number of years. Time will tell.


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 2:38 p.m.

Gee!... Just what we need - another overpriced yupscale bar! What this town really needs are a few good dives - places yuppies and students are afraid to go into. Now that would be refreshing!


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 1:46 p.m.

Thanks for the in-depth report on business happenings. I'd like to see more analysis of local businesses.

John Hritz

Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 1:34 p.m.

With all due respect, I wouldn't consider the Leopold Brothers location high-profile...unless we're talking failures of business acumen. Your closing captures it better. After forcing their tenants out, the landlord lost 18 months of rent.


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 10:57 a.m.

My point exactly. Mr McDonald is set for an epic fail.


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 10:49 a.m.

Well, which population are you going to focus on? You can't comprehensively do both students and townie/A2 professionals - these groups don't mix all that well I've noted over the years. I visited Envy a few was your standard rap/bad-techno club with sugary drinks and lots of drunk gropers (standard college dance club with bar.)


Wed, Oct 14, 2009 : 7:41 a.m.

Unique clientele? Like students? "He said he's focusing his efforts on Ann Arbor because of the unique clientele the university brings."