Outdoor beer and wine garden to join Mark's Carts and Downtown Home & Garden in Ann Arbor
Joining two of his downtown Ann Arbor business ventures — Downtown Home & Garden and Mark’s Carts outdoor food courtyard — owner Mark Hodesh has a new concept for South Ashley Street: Bill’s Beer Garden.
Hodesh and a long-time business associate, Bill Zolkowski, submitted a site plan to the city of Ann Arbor to open the outdoor beer and wine garden on a portion of the Downtown Home & Garden parking lot this summer.
The plan: construct a 422-square-foot storage and restroom building, two open-air pavilions with seating, and an enclosed pavilion for the bar on a portion of the existing parking lot, located at the northwest corner of Liberty and Ashley.
There will be a corridor connecting Bill’s Beer Garden with Mark’s Carts, and customers will be able to bring food from the courtyard to the beer garden.
The garden, which will serve Michigan craft beer and wine and host live music and other entertainment events, will be open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. while the weather is warm. Hodesh and Zolkowski hope to begin construction the first week of March and open it by mid-summer.
The relationship between Hodesh and Zolkowski dates back nearly 40 years, when Zolkowski was a cook 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.
“Who could ask for a better retirement plan than to operate a beer garden in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor?” Zolkowski said in a statement.
Hodesh told AnnArbor.com his plan for the garden is to make it a “community gathering spot,” where people can socialize and hang out - something he saw firsthand at a beer garden in Brooklyn, NY.
“I never realized what family fun it was,” he said. “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.”
Hodesh also nodded to downtown Ann Arbor’s “ever changing retail environment,” and a shift away from retail and towards entertainment.
Bill’s Beer Garden, he said, fits the changing environment. It gives him "double use" of his parking lot, where people can still park during the day and then it transforms to the beer garden at night.
“(The change) has been happening for 30 years,” he said. “I embrace it. To me, this is making (Downtown Home & Garden) stronger because it brings more people to our block and they’ll be sitting out there looking up at our sign.”
Hodesh called the relationship between Mark’s Carts and Bill’s Beer Garden “hand in glove,” where people spending time at the garden can also eat at the courtyard - which plans to open for its second season March 30.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “The food and the spirit and the whole thing are really similar. It feels good and people are so happy.”