Top 15 bars: Ann Arbor's liquor sales grew 7 percent in 2011
Ann Arbor's reputation for hosting a vital nightlife scene is just part of a growing industry in Michigan: liquor.
A look at statewide data for wholesale liquor sales to bars and restaurants that, in turn, sell it for consumption on their premises shows sales and revenue growth in 2011.
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Statewide, wholesale liquor sales went up 3.66 percent in 2011, along with a 1.64 percent increase in price per case.
Gross sales were $270 million, generating revenue of $61.5 million, up $4.3 million. The total sales included $43.4 million from establishments with on-premise licenses, a $1.5 million increase over 2010.
In Washtenaw County , sales of liquor sold for "pours" in bars and restaurants went up about 7 percent from 2010 to 2011.
That's reflected in the top 15 establishments in the county, ranked by sales (see list below). Of those top 15 — all of which had totals of more than $100,000 — sales increased by 6.4 percent over 2009 to $2.2 million.
Four of the county's top liquor buyers reached the $200,000 level. And one, Good Time Charley’s, looks to be within reach of hitting $300,000. That number is up from $217,107 in 2009.
Charting the top wholesale liquor buyers among the county's bars and restaurants is one indicator of business volume. It’s not a read on non-liquor sales — like food or beer — and it doesn’t indicate how much an establishment may be charging for a drink.
However, it is a consistent measure across each bar and restaurant for how much inventory they’re buying for a key component of their sales: booze.
And it also shows — perhaps predictably — that downtown Ann Arbor is the hub of the county’s bar and restaurant activity.
Of the top 15 purchasers of wholesale liquor, 14 are in Ann Arbor — and 11 are downtown, mixed between the Main Street Area and the bars that cater to University of Michigan students.
Number one on the list — again — was Charley's. Number two: Necto, an Ann Arbor mainstay that has found its groove with music-themed events. Its purchases grew 33 percent in the last year.
The reason, said Scot Greig, isn't due to a single factor. Some remodeling may have helped. Special programming — like Voltage Wednesdays — also plays a role.
But so do the foot traffic and atmosphere in downtown Ann Arbor, said Greig, a manager and owner at Necto.
"I think more people are going out," he said. " The city and everyone who lives here has done a good job of trying to stay up during a bad economy."
The Alley Bar made the list for the first time under its new ownership, coming in at number 12.
Robbie Schulz, bar manager, said he’s not surprised the small establishment leapfrogged over many larger ones.
"A lot has to do with what we specialize in," he said. "We’re cocktail-driven."
The clientele expects a range of choices, and Schulz tries to stock new and seasonal surprises for his regular fans of whiskeys and gins.
And because of those expectations of his customers, Schulz also will stock up when the state runs low of a favorite.
That, he said, may be influencing how much the bar has spent.
"Come in and look at our back bar," he said. "It's piled deep with liquor."
The number 3 position on the 2011 list is filled by Knight’s Bar & Restaurant, which typically is found in the top 3. In 2011, the volume grew by 1 percent, but it also topped $200,000 — a new milestone.
"We pour a good drink, and it's always consistent," said manager Lindsay Bedolla. "We believe that brings a lot of people back."
Top sellers in Washtenaw County (Changes from 2010 in parentheses)
- Good Time Charley’s $285,908 (20 percent)
- Necto $265,526 (33 percent)
- Knight’s Bar & Restaurant $204,768 (1 percent)
- Blue Leprechaun $204,475 (38 percent)
- Weber’s $173,542 (25 percent)
- Rick’s American Cafe $157,481 (5 percent)
- Rush Street $153,554 (no comparable)
- Black Pearl $143,533 (11 percent)
- Melange Bistro $138,806 (-8 percent)
- Scorekeepers $137,582 (8 percent)
- Brown Jug $129,379 (18 percent)
- Alley Bar $116,378 (no comparable)
- Conor O'Neills $104,253 (-39 percent)
- Banfield Bar & Grill $103,088 (7 percent)
- Aubree's Saloon $102,780 (27 percent)
Almost at the $100,000 mark:
- The Arena $99,218 (15 percent)
- Sidetrack $99,201 (- 8 percent)