New restaurant to replace ex-Champion House in downtown Ann Arbor
Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com
A locally owned Asian fusion restaurant will be open on the corner of East Liberty Street and Fourth Avenue in the Pretzel Bell Building sometime this fall, said building owner and local developer Ed Shaffran.
Shaffran said the new restaurant will have a Japanese steakhouse feel due to a hibachi grill that diners can sit around, but there will also be an extensive sushi menu.
The atmosphere, he said, will feel “much more upscale” than Champion House.
“It’s not like Benihana either, which is the first thing people think of,” he said. “This restaurant is kind of multifaceted and will have a different variety of Asian foods.”
He said the owners - whom he would not identify - will seek a liquor license and soon will start renovating the space. Ann Arbor-based firms MSK Architects and Rizzolo Brown Studio are working on the project.
The owners hope to open the restaurant sometime this fall, and also plan to offer samples of their food during the Ann Arbor Art Fair this summer, Shaffran said.
The roughly 4,000-square-foot space was listed on the market for two months after Champion House owner Hai Pham abandoned it in January.
Shaffran said he was not notified that the 20-year-old restaurant would be closing, but he has since taken legal steps to terminate the lease.
He said he received interest in the space from a variety of different restaurant users, including regional concepts, a microbrewery and burger joints.
But Shaffran, who maintains he’s “all about local,” said he thinks a local tenant has a better read on the community and its needs.
And the new Asian restaurant, he said, will offer the downtown area “something a little different.”
“Certainly we received all kinds of interested concepts,” he said. “The space is pretty much designed for an Asian restaurant, to say the least.
"We’re taking advantage of that and moving forward with it.”