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Posted on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Champion House restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor closes abruptly

By Lizzy Alfs


Champion House restaurant on East Liberty Street closed last week and the space is now being marketed for lease.

Lizzy Alfs |

Champion House, the 20-year-old restaurant and sushi bar located at 120 E. Liberty St., closed abruptly last week.

The business closed without notifying its landlord. Local developer Ed Shaffran of the Shaffran Companies — who owns the Pretzel Bell Building on the corner of Fourth Avenue and East Liberty Street — said in an email that "all indications are they have abandoned the space.”

“We have tried to contact them. What food, liquor, pots and pans they had [and] used are gone,” Shraffran said.

He said the owner, Hai Pham, indicated that the restaurant was doing “OK” and then stopped communicating a few days later.

Pham did not respond to multiple calls.

Now, Shaffran said he is taking the necessary legal steps to reclaim the space and there has been a preliminary cleaning to remove the remaining food from the coolers and freezers.

He has also begun marketing the approximately 4,000-square-foot space.

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



Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Hooter's needs an Ann Arbor location.

Harry Potter

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

This could only be the work of a dark wizard...


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:01 a.m.

I miss the RFD Boys. They were the very first band I heard upon landing here three decades ago. At the Pretzel Bell. Bring back something like that.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

Perfect spot for a McDonald's.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

There used to be a Mcdonalds on South University where Bubble Island is at now


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

What we want - the return of Pretzel Bell What we will get - the return of Grandma Lee's


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

The hibachi stuff was good. Their other Japanese food was bad, and their sushi was kind of appalling. This doesn't exactly come as a shock. Yes, it was good when it had hibachi on one side and Chinese food on the other, because that Chinese food was pretty good. But it's been bad ever since it switched over.

David Paris

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:06 p.m.

If I want to eat at a franchise restaurant, I'll go to Novi, let's just stick with what makes Ann Arbor what it is. As "GoBlue said, if the staff was poor, then good riddance, someone else can gladly make it work. Best of luck to Shaffran Co.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Too many mediocre restaurants in A2. Good riddance.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

This place has been around for 20 yrs, but doesn't inspire the nostalgic sorrow that Parthenon did? Is the cutoff 25 yrs before everyone starts talking about how much of a shame it is to lose a restaurant? So two less than good places are gone. Let's hope Real Seafood's next


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

Went there recently with friends and had a great meal with an entertaining staff. They will be missed at least by some.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

I never saw anyone in there.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

Ah, I used to go to the Chinese side of Champion house all of the time with a former friend of mine who loved the place. I would only go there with him because he was the only person I knew who liked it. It got to the point where I completely associated the place with him and when he moved away I stopped going there. Still I would often think of him when I walked past the place. He turned out to be someone I would rather not remember though so I can't say I am sorry to see the place go. I hope the next place is better.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Wow, just wow

Christy King

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

Am I the only one that was obsessed with the Hibatchi shrimp and noodles? Now where am I going to get those? ::cries::

Ron Granger

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4 p.m.

As long as I have my Blimpy Burger.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

What is going on around here? Champion House, Pantheon, Old Country Buffet, Flim Flam... how many more? This is nuts! Chris W is right, at this rate we'll all have to cook for ourselves!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Ummmm, that list doesn't exactly inspire pride in the A2 food scene.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

These comments are silly. Ann Arbor has more restaurants that any city I have ever lived in. And half of them are actually good.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

While I'm sad to see Champion House close (if only because I've lived in this town for 2 decades and never ate there), their closing makes room for a new business in that location. What business? Well, I'd say this town is long overdue for a Hooters. Someone call them up, ASAP.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:25 p.m. are right on the money there...cuz that's a no class sexist business...need more quality and sophistication Bongz and Thongz!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

@mun: Yeah, it's a dream that will never see reality. The unshaven-legged birkenstock-wearing Prius drivers of this town would never allow such an establishment in the heart of downtown.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Not in downtown Ann Arbor. A better location would be where Ypsi-Arbor bowling used to be. At least there would be room for parking and Ypsi can use more business.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

I agree with previous comments - bring back a version of the Pretzel Bell! How about an all grown-up Pretzel Bell? Multi-tap maybe - maybe something between Ashley's and Conor O'Neills. You'll need to track down all the carved table tops...


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Walked out in the middle of the night? wow.

Jaime Magiera

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

They pulled a "Spaghetti Machine" ;)


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

There was a bar on Woodward downtown (across from the Garden Bowl) which did the same thing a few years back. If I remember correctly, it was some type of disagreement with the landlords over rent. Sad.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

I kind of wonder if it is especially uncommon. Once years ago, I worked for a restaurant that did that. I found out I was out of a job when I showed up for work and the front door was locked. I never did get my last pay check either.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

That boggles my mind too. Who would have known. Love to know why.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Seems weird to me that they just up and left in the middle of the night or that's how restaurants are closing these days open one day, completely moved out the next.

Go Blue

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Staff with bad attitudes abounded in that restaurant and unfortunately, at all times. Can't believe it took so long for it to finally go away. Good food or bad food, when staff is obnoxious, nothing else matters. Good riddance.

Taylor Hulyk

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Never went there, but to be honest...however shallow this is...the exterior of the building is horrible. Especially located in such close proximity to the bus station, it just looked trashy. Hopefully Shafrann fixes that up before the next tenant.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

I think we are long overdue for a Dave & Busters in town...either in that spot, or the old Borders. That, or a Buddy's Pizza. Buddy's Pizza would do well in that spot. Who am I kiddin? Everyone knows a new Subway is coming in.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:41 a.m.

Bring back UNOs Pizza !

West of Main

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Dave & Busters? *shudders*


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

I'd love to see a Buddy's in Ann Arbor. We have Buddy's occasionally, but it's difficult to pay that much for a pizza along with having to drive to Livonia to pick it up.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Maybe Rich Sheridan, CEO of Ann Arbor-based software firm Menlo Innovations, can set up his taxpayer supported cafeteria for his employees right next door to his taxpayer supported employee transportation hub? No thanks, Richie Rich!

Ed Fenton

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

I'm glad another restaurant is gone, we got to many of them anyway, need to see more retail than off the wall restaurants.

Mike D.

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

That place had pretty good Chinese food and terrible service until they decided to have mediocre Japanese food and terrible service. Good riddance.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1 p.m.

The Pretzel Bell bar was bought by Andy Galvezan of Full Moon fame and moved upstairs to the City Grill. Of course the old City Grill space is now the Jolly Pumpkin. I assume the bar is still upstairs. FYI, the downstairs bars at the Jolly Pumpkin and The Raven Club (ex Full Moon, Monkey Bar, and One Eyed Moose) came from Calumet and Laurium in the UP.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:46 p.m.

Thanks for the history lesson


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

The Pretzel Bell was there from at least the 50's (it was the closest bar to campus due to laws at the time) thru at least the mid-80's.

just a voice

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

I was also sad when they changed their menu. Not the biggest pork fan, but they had a pork in honey sauce apetizer that was amazing. Jojo is mostly right in that they became on of many, many sushi places in town, granted they did have the steackhouse/table cooking to stand out, but that also put them at the very top of the price range. I can't remember them not being there. When did they Open? and; What was there before them?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

Bring back the Prezel Bell!


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

And the Cracked Crab - I remember walking down an alley to get to it...


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Maude's was great.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

Oh my gosh! I had forgotten about most of those restaurants. Maude's anyone?

Joe Wood

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Bimbos! My grandpa used to take us kids there. They would make the pizzas by tossing the dough up into the air! Peanut shells on the floor. Trombone player with a garter on his arm. Thanks for bringing that memory back. :)


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

Whiffle Tree? Can't remember what Bimbos was about.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Farrell's? No, bring back Bimbo's.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

How about Farrell's?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

They come and they go.

Jojo B

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

I used to LOVE Champion House back when they served Chinese food. But when they switched to Japanese, they became one of thirty other restaurants that offered that fair, and in my opinion, they didn't do it as well as places like Totoro. Whenever I would walk by, I would see one or two tables occupied, max. I can't imagine the economy helped them either. Not too many people can afford a long and expensive Japanese steakhouse lunch these days. Farewell, Champion House! I miss what you were several years ago! I had many happy memories there.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

We went here a lot for special occasions. There is a similar Champion House on Ford Road in Canton. I think I might try there for the next special occasion. Good luck to the former owners. So sad to hear they just left. Wonder why?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

At this rate, the only restaurant left in Ann Arbor will be Subways.

Joe Kidd

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:16 p.m.

Funny, when I go downtown I get the impression restaurants are all that we will be seeing there. Am I missing something? Are restaurants failing at an alarming rate?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

I think the reason you don't like Jimmy John's is because you're eating there before 2am, whilst sober. Their sandwiches are best enjoyed after a long night of drinking.

West of Main

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Jimmy John's prides itself on its lack of selections. NO SOUP NO SALADS Just GOURMET Sandwiches


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

"& Jimmy Johns.... yuck" I feel you on that one. I've had about every sandwich they offer and I can't pick a favorite because they are all so so...It would help if they offered something besides cold cuts and tuna. Maybe some varieties of warm sandwiches.

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

& Jimmy Johns.... yuck

mike gatti

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

mmmmmmmm Subway


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

We were sad when they closed the Chinese side of the shop to emphasize the Japanese portion. Interested too much in the college clan and their pre-bar jumping saki bombs, we were told.