Sold: Banfield's Westside Grill on Jackson Avenue
Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com
After nearly two decades in operation, the family owned Banfield’s Westside Grill & Tavern on Jackson Avenue just west of Ann Arbor is changing hands.
The restaurant and sports bar, located at 5510 Jackson in Scio Township, was sold last month to another local family with ties to the Ann Arbor business community: Rick and Ben Buhr.
The Buhrs officially took over Banfield’s last week, and they now plan to renovate, update the menu, hire additional employees and eventually change the restaurant’s name. The father-son duo are partnering with Tony Bonino in the venture. “There’s a lot of great stuff to build on here,” Ben Buhr said. “We just want to take what they’ve built and bring it up to date.
"We want to convince people who haven’t been here in a while to do a 180(-degree turn) and come back to check it out.”
That includes: cleaning it up, updating the technology, rebuilding the menu, bringing in more University of Michigan-themed memorabilia and hosting more sports-related events.
According to Scio Township documents, the building was sold for $1.66 million. Its assessed value for the 2012 tax year is $573,900, making its estimated market value about double that.
Ben said they’ve already completed in-house interviews with Banfield’s existing employees, and they plan to keep the current staff, as well as hire a handful of additional people.
Rick Buhr’s history in the Ann Arbor restaurant business dates back to 1979, when he opened Good Time Charley’s in downtown Ann Arbor. He sold the business in 2007.
In the past year, Ben said they’ve been looking to get back into the restaurant or bar business in the Ann Arbor area and looked at several properties downtown.
Jim Chaconas of Colliers International, a commercial real estate broker who worked with the Buhrs, said they had a couple different buildings under contract that never went through. When Chaconas approached Tom Banfield, he said he’d be interested in selling his Scio Township restaurant.
“It was the perfect marriage,” Chaconas said. “Tom was tired, and you know, wanted to do something different, and for Rick, he wanted a sports bar for his son.”
He added: “This one has a great reputation and a great location. They’re going to keep on the heritage of what Tom did.”
Ben added that he and his father jumped on the opportunity as soon as possible: “It’s a high demand property and has a great following with the west side neighborhoods and all of Ann Arbor.”
He said the ownership transition has gone smoothly so far, and both customers and staff have been welcoming.
“The following here is extremely loyal,” he said. “I’ve been here six nights, and it’s the same people all the time coming in to grab food or watch a game it’s been a pleasant surprise how the customers and staff have welcomed us in. As long as you respect the customers and treat them right and give them good service, hopefully they’ll stick around.”
Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.
Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.
We went to Banfields a lot with our kids - the staff was always very friendly, and we'd play video games/pool/air hockey/etc with our kids in the back room before and after our meal. We saw a lot of other families doing the same thing. We stopped by on Sunday to see what the new owners had done, and the game room was boarded up, and we were told it wasn't coming back! We didn't bother staying - it's obvious the new owners aren't looking for families.
Lets Get Real
Fri, Jun 15, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.
Rick wants a bar for his son - how'd that work out at Good Time Charley's? You know what they say about leopards and their spots. Haven't been to Banfield's in a long time - either one. The psychic readings and karaoke at the original did me in on the east side; the west side just never seemed to top of mind when on the west side. Too many other places come to mind first. Willing to give it another try, but this town has alot of attractive competition. How about a more generic Big 10 theme to attract visiting teams' fans and not allieniate local residents who went to MSU? How about customer friendly policies - like separate checks, and gratuities that are earned not an automatic entitlement? How about pricing that encourages, not discourages frequent patronage? How about some welcoming energy from the staff? Wish them no ill, best wishes abound for any local small business - but it takes more than wishes. It's called hard work.
Tue, Jun 12, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.
I wonder what they did to Paul Bunyan. That was the original Paul Bunyan. Good luck to the new owners. Seems like everyone is getting out of the restaurant biz.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.
Darn, now where will I go for barely-average greasy bar food, in a dining area filled with NASCAR decor (and fans)?
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.
I like to stop there, it is convenient and relatively inexpensive. However, I agree that it smells bad, the restrooms are kind of dirty, and the tables feel sticky/dirty sometimes. Looking forward to the upgrade.....but don't upgrade too much....it's still a sports bar.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.
As a long time Ann Arborite (born, raised and still living here) I can truthfully say that we have had some great bars & restaurants over the years. Having grown up with the Buhr's, Banfields, Knights (Don and Bob--Knights Restaurant), the Chutich family (Bimbo's), the Castor family (Pretzel Bell), the Fraser's (Fraser's Pub--and before that the Chuck Wagon) and the Carver's (Johnny-Second Chance), I can tell you that Ann Arbor has had some great 'locals' with some great places. It continues with Bill Martin (former AD @ ) and Paul Robertson (one of Ann Arbor's finest) owning Casey's! But, among them all, the one that sets the bar high, the one that sets the benchmark, is Knights!! Not only the best in Ann Arbor, but the best in the world! Buhr's---study Knights, learn from them!!
Tue, Jun 12, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.
Whiffle Tree and Paul Bunyan and Farrel's.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.
WWBODO, Every place you mention brings back fond memories but how could you forget the Stadium Tavern?
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.
Yes, build a restaurant that's too small, never, ever update the decor, make sure it has inadequate parking and a waiting area that's too small, and refuse to add a second location. These are apparently the keys to restaurant success in Ann Arbor.
Lac Court Orilles
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.
Glad to see Tony Bonino back in town again. He has to be the "Dean" of Ann Arbor Restaurants by now...
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.
Hopefully, they do a better job operating Banfields than they did Good Time Charlies.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.
Due to so many people using credit and debit cards, The one check rule for parties over 6 will be taken out. So big parties need not be discouraged to come to Banfields Westside. The staff did what they could to accommodate this problem on Saturday night, and will continue to do so in the future.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.
Former A2 Resident
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.
Banfield's used to be a great hang out after softball games. The food has not been good for awhile. The restrooms are disgusting. I know it's a bar, but I hope the new owners add some decent wine choices.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 3 p.m.
Thank goodness, I ate there one time and thought the food was disgusting.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.
I just bought a Banfields gift card at a school fundraiser, I wonder if it will be honored?
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.
Great I hadn't been in awhile it will be nice to go and check out the changes.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.
Yes, all gift cards will be honored!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.
Good to see a change. I like the idea of more University of Michigan theme. After all, this is Ann Arbor, for God Sakes!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.
just because it's a college town doesn't mean everything should revolve around UM... I didn't go there, I just live here.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.
less Wolvie stuff might be a good idea
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.
More Wolverine stuff is a GREAT idea...GO BLUE!!!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.
In the last several years we have gone there with groups large and small. When we were with a large group they were fantastic about separate checks, this was one of the reasons we went there consistently after the boys' games. Saturday we found out that has changed with the new owners and parties of 6 or more will have one check with 20% gratuity added. While this is their choice and not an unusual practice (although I think the parties are usually larger and the percentage more like 15%) it does seem to us to be a clear message that our parties of 12 to 30 are not welcome. We understand, no hard feelings, we'll find an alternative.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.
When I first moved to A2 18 years ago I lived on the Westside and Banfield's was a place I frequented often. Made many good friends and always enjoyed watching sporting events there. We still get there often. I with the new owner's success and also hope Tom enjoys whatever is next for him.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.
I think the "loyal" following "of all the same people all the time" is actually a detraction when it comes to this bar. I've been there off and on several times and the regulars are not very friendly to new people. It doesn't seem like a very welcoming place. I hope the new ownership changes that.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.
One of many reasons we never went back there - overpriced lousy food, smells like stinky stale cigarettes and some of the rudest staff (we weren't "local"). I always thought how sad because it is a great location and has so much potential. We will try it again when they finish cleaning it up. I do wish them the best of luck and if done right they will have a great sport's bar - very needed in this area! More Michigan stuff - GO BLUE love this idea!!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.
So the plans include "... bringing in more University of Michigan-themed memorabilia ..." wow - that will really make them unique in this town
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.
Sorry! Already have a problem with this new ownership. Went Friday night for the first time since the ownership change and they made last-call around 1:10, the bar still had a sizable amount of people still enjoying themselves. Definitely new staff rushed everyone out by 1:30. Not a good example of good customer service.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.
Maybe they felt everyone had had enough to drink. I mean maybe they were they were drunk.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.
Best of luck to Tom (Tuck) and Will. Ann Arbor classics!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.
As a twenty some college grad who lived about 3 miles away from Banfields Westside, the place needs some revamping. The drink specials were not really specials when compared to others bars/restaurants in the area. I often found myself going to TGIF in loo of West Ban due to the availability of cheap swill after hockey or soccer games. Hopefully they can understand why the former owners didn't receive many teams afterwards, and amend the problem.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.
My sentiments exactly. My team and I are always going to TGIF instead of Westside. Update the historic TV's, Give the place a fresh coat of paint and new carpet to get the smell of stale cigarettes out, a little revamp to the menu and you should see some extra money coming in. I have been to Westside under the previous ownership and each time left me thinking about the many changes they could do to make it better than an over priced dive bar....
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.
"They're going to keep on the heritage of what Tom did." "they now plan to renovate, update the menu.....change the restaurant's name..... bring it up to date. " That includes: cleaning it up, updating the technology, rebuilding the menu....." It seems a bit of a clash between part 1 and part 2. What "heritage" are they keeping other than the address? In any case I wish them well. I'm an east-sider so the original Banfield's (formerly the Fireside) is my Banfield's of choice.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.
Congrats to new owners, and best wishes to outgoing! The menu does need some updating. However, the turkey burgers are really good. Hope they keep or ad some good options for non beef/pork eaters!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.
Great to see another long time A2 guy back into the local restaurant scene...Tony Bonino! This is a great combo, just what this place needs...a little new blood to revive a hohum location. Be out to see you soon Tony.
tom swift jr.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.
If they are looking for suggestions, I would offer that, perhaps, a giant statue of Paul Bunyan outside by the I94 ramp would draw in some traffic..... I don't think that's ever been done before!
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.
Maybe a nice change for this location. Hopefully they can bring the beer prices down some, the only draw back from going to Banfields in my opinion.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.
Let's hope that the new owners keep the outdoor cherry wood grilling: excellent food for a very good price. We've been there many times for this and really enjoy it.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.
Yes, I'm hopeful of this as well. You can get one of the better steaks in town for a pretty reasonable price and the cherry wood grill just adds to that. There are not many places you can go where you get an actual wood grilled steak.
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.
To Banfield, thanks for all and best wishes in your retirement. To the new owners, looking forward to visiting for a burger and beer and the up-to-date stuff.