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Posted on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 6:35 a.m.

Former J Neil's Mongolian Grille in downtown Ypsilanti could reopen as US 12 Bar and Grill

By Tom Perkins


J Neil's and Keystone Underground could soon become a new US-12 Bar and Grill.

Tom Perkins | For

The owner of a Wayne nightclub and restaurant is exploring the feasibility of opening a downtown Ypsilanti location with several local partners.

John Goci, who operates US-12 Bar and Grill on Michigan Avenue in downtown Wayne, and local businessman Jamie Clippert, signed a contract with Maurer Management to hold the former J Neil’s Mongolian Grille and Keystone Underground locations for 60 days.

The contract was signed two weeks ago, and Goci is hopeful to have a better picture of what an ownership situation would look like and how the project can move forward within the next week.

Goci said the “US-12 west” location would be similar to the one in Wayne. It is a sports bar during the day and early evening, then transforms to more of a small rock club at night.

He said the former Keystone Lounge would host live music, while the former J Neil’s would offer a sports bar ambiance. Goci said the bar may only serve burgers, fries, hot dogs and a few other items on a very limited menu, but several other possibilities - such as an omelet bar - are being considered. Goci added that he hopes to keep the location open 24 hours and provide wireless internet access.

Clippert’s family has deep roots in the city and area. In the mid 1800’s, they made their fortune in the region establishing the Clippert Brick Company, and Clippert wants to use the former Keystone to create a theme that celebrates that heritage, Goci said.

Goci, who is the treasurer for the Wayne-Westland Community Schools Board of Education, is estimating investing $100,000 to renovate and establish the new location, and the ownership configuration is still being discussed. Aside from Clippert and Goci, former J Neil’s and Keystone owner Dave Curtis, who owns the liquor license at that address, is part of the talks, Goci said.

Clippert’s "story" and the location are what got Goci involved in exploring opening another US-12. He underscored that he wouldn’t open a new location just for financial reasons.

Clippert is an active member of the American Dystonia Foundation, which causes involuntary muscle movement, and he has fallen increasingly ill in recent months. Goci said Clippert wants to leave his children and the community something when he passes on, and has shown a tremendous amount of energy in developing the project.

Clippert was most recently in discussions with Ypsilanti property owner Joe Lawrence about opening a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Ypsilanti. Medical marijuana is used to relieve dystonia symptoms.

Goci said helping Clippert is his main motivation for getting involved with opening the bar.

“His story just really touched me, and the fact that he wants to do something to remember his family in the downstairs is great,” Goci said. “I’m not doing this as a business - I’m trying to help him, and when I help somebody it in life, it comes back to me 10-fold.

"I’d also like to help bring some life back to that life back to that block. It’s such a great area," Goci added.

Ultimately, Goci and Clippert want to see the revitalization of the entire Washington Street block of nightclubs, including the former Pub 13 and Savoy. Curtis owned those properties until the size of disputed DTE Energy bill forced him to close just before the bank took possession of them. The Pub 13 and Savoy buildings are now in foreclosure.

“My God, I would love to be the guy who’s a catalyst to draw some other investors out there, but for now I’m just weighing everything and seeing where the opportunity stands,” Gocis said. “This is the starting point and that area is something that we can save. “



Wed, Mar 16, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

I really hope they try to keep the martini music is great. But Downtown Ypsi really needs 'ONE' nice bar. most people I talk to are sick of having to go to Ann Arbor all the time to find a half way decent looking space. Keystone was nice. hope they try to keep it that way.

Jim Pryce

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

I hope it works out. If it would have a seperate room or two, I would think it would make a great place for a sports bar, where all the fantasy sports folks could have an area to hold their meetings, draft, & get something to eat & drink. Our league currently uses BW-3, but they have no seperate area & the place is so loud that no one can hear each other, so we usually end up outdoors on the patio, which is OK, but not in colder temps.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

I am with Andrew. Mr. Goci has a location in Westland. He knows the real challenges of running the business he envisions. As unique as we think we are...those challenges are not any different. I vote for the omelet bar. Once Mr Goci gets more inspiration from the available food service talent; we will see a more tempting menu. Our live entertainment (music) venues shrank for over a decade. Over the last five years there have been more real efforts to build better places to go out and enjoy more talent. Bring it on! Our entertainers now have more resources to promote themselves and bring more people into a venue than ever. Also Mr. Clippert bringing an anchor founded in local history is a great plus. They are legacy builders. Haabs is built on family and local legacy. Haabs hasn't faltered because another business opened. Welcome to Ypsilanti.

Andrew Jason Clock

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Call me crazy, but I don't think its very welcoming to say, "oh, you're opening a new business, good luck with that." Maybe if we stopped saying that every time a business opens, we would be taking a step towards changing that pattern.

Henry Ruger

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

Well, best of luck. But only burgers and dogs? Korey's Krispy Krunchy Chicken on Pearl, a short walk away, has a much more impressive menu, and they're "only" a fast-food place. Not sure how you make such a large, main-street restaurant/bar successful with fare that might be sold by a push-cart vendor. Is the place just for drunks who don't care what they're eating? Oh, that'll be nice.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

I really hope they succeed also. I also think lumberg has appraised the situation accurately. When I lived in Ypsi there would always be a big hurrah about a new place opening that was going to "revitalize" Downtown Ypsi. Inevitably, lumberg's pattern worked itself out insidiously. It is a shame, but there is the strong (and sometimes accurate) picture that Downtown Ypsi is dangerous and the width of Michigan Avenue makes it also seem uninviting. Depot Town, is another pattern entirely and has been really successful. There's just something about downtown that seems to make everything fail there. I don't want to sound like a prude, but the DEJA VU never helped either. I wish downtown all the best, and hope the new owners will do well.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

For various reasons, downtown Ypsi businesses fail because one seems to take from the other ... thus no momentum can be built. One place opens and another closes - its been this way for years... If I frequent one place, another suffers since most of the people who go downtown are the same - very few outsiders and very few new people come and stay ... Until Ypsi can get people from outside the area to come on a consistent basis, the trend of one place opening while another closes will continue... the safety issue is a factor in this as well -- I have friend who LIVE in Ypsi and wont come downtown ... the image issue might the biggest roadblock to getting people downtown at night... While I am excited for a new US-12 and a new BBQ place set to open and the new coffee-shop - I will only be happy if they are around in a year and other places are too ... it has to be able to sustain business and not take from another if the downtown is to be successful


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Andrew, What part of "I hope they succeed" don't you understand? Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. You can smile and say how wonderful everything is....or face reality. I have supported downtown for years. At the same time I am not blind to the problems. And I won't lie about them.

Andrew Jason Clock

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

@Cash, Nice, real nice. Yes, lots of businesses fail in lots of places for lots of reasons. Downtown Ypsi is not a curse. Or are you just rooting for your own city to fail? Having a bar like US 12, with their established reputation as a great live music venue, would be fantastic. Love the idea of another venue downtown. Hope this works out. If we can get this place and Red Rock crank'n the tunes, maybe by the fall we can be planning our own "Metro Times Blowout" bar-hopping music fest. (or maybe we already are....)


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Looking forward to gettting tipsy in ypsi. Between that, the place in the old speakeasy and the elbow and tap rooms, it looks like the downtown Ypsi pub crawl could be the thing to do this summer.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

Sadly you aren't the first folks to have those hopes and dreams. Many have come to downtown Ypsi before you. That said, I hope you succeed.


Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

This would be a welcome addition. I passed by the location the other day and wondered what was to become of it. It looks as if it was ready to resume business within hours.