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Posted on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 12:31 p.m.

Jolly Pumpkin preparing to join Ann Arbor's Main Street bar scene

By Dan Meisler

The Jolly Pumpkin Cafe will open within the next two months at 311 S. Main in the location of the former Pepperz, brewer and owner Ron Jeffries said. 

The owner of the prize-winning brewery based in Dexter sought a location in Ann Arbor for three years, but rents had fallen recently allowing the Main Street space to become affordable.

"Rents are great," Jeffries said. "Rents were insane three years ago."

The cafe will occupy the entire building, including the basement. The brewing operations, which Jeffries said will be about half the size of those at Grizzly Peak and Arbor Brewing Company, will be on the first floor.

The building is 4,200 square feet, not including the basement, according to city records, and is owned by the Patricia Wong Trust.

Restaurants have dominated Main Street and, to a lesser extent, Liberty and State streets, for many years. But longtime local eatery Zanzibar on State Street recently closed, and there is a movement toward smaller restaurants with lower overhead costs.

For example, broker Jim Chaconas of Colliers International reported that interest in leasing the entire 6,000-square-foot ground floor space at the Handicraft Building on Liberty and Division was light, but picked up when it was marketed as two 3,000-square-foot spaces. 

And Roger Hewitt of Zanzibar said the large size of the restaurant and resulting rent contributed to its demise.

"I think there's clearly a trend toward smaller rather than larger spaces," Hewitt said.

The poor economy has arguably played a role in the hard times facing some restaurants as well, but Jeffries said he was optimistic about opening, despite the economy. It received $1.1 million in tax credits over eight years from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

"There are still people out there working, spending money, maybe not spending lavishly, but they're going out to dinner with their friends," he said. "There's a real demand for comfort, and beer qualifies as comfort food to a lot of people."

The new eatery will offer vegetarian and vegan options, a niche Jeffries said is underserved in Ann Arbor, and new brands of beer will be brewed on-site as well.

Getting food from local farmers will also be a high priority.

"We're working on the menu right now," Jeffries said. "Everything we can source locally, we will."



Fri, Sep 18, 2009 : 5:46 p.m.

To ad to the news writers comment, I believe most of the previous failed ownership had more to do with the same owner, Andy Gulvezan trying to reinvent something different but nothing worked. He owns (or did) much of the real estate on Main St. Was there something called the Monkey Bar there also at one time?

Local Wise Man

Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 12:33 p.m.

Oh my Gosh! Is Jolly Pumpkin blind? Everybody in town knows (including land lord) the Building and space is a LEMON and is documented to be haunted Just take a serious look at all past businesses that have failed In less than a year in this space. Jolly Pumpkin was foolish to decline the space they had Secured on the corner of Division and Liberty across from Bar Louie. The new brewery tenant Will receive all the university traffic of students that will never venture to Main Street RIP Jolly Pumpkin which makes great beer but BAD location

Matt Kaz

Mon, Jul 27, 2009 : 9:57 a.m.

Will I have to pay $9 a pint? Their beers are overpriced and are for a select few... price and taste-wise. When is Larry Bell going to open a brew pub here?! :)

Chad Livengood

Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 10:34 p.m.

As many know, I now live in Springfield, Mo. Imagine my surprise recently when I was browsing a craft beer store and found 750ml bottles of Jolly Pumpkin Ales' Calabaza Blanca and Bam Bire in the cooler. Each bottle was selling for $13 apiece, which is only a few bucks more than I paid a couple of years ago at Jolly Pumpkin Ales' brewery in downtown Dexter or at a craft beer store in Jackson. At any rate, this is a great development for this great brewer. Chad Livengood Springfield, MO (formerly of Chelsea)


Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 4:39 p.m.

Hopefully the JP will make it. A lot of restaurant/bars have come and gone in that space.


Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 3:53 p.m.

Yep- Ron is a smokefree guy so he said it will be smokefree.

Sam Nead

Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 2:59 p.m.

You can't have enough micro brews, me says. I also figured my very first comment at (on their first day) should relate to beer. Cheers to the new Ann Arbor News digerati!


Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 2:47 p.m.

I hope that the beers they offer are a little more palette friendly than the usual Jolly Pumpkin beers which are known for their sour flavor.


Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 2:42 p.m.

I'm buyin the first round for everyone


Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 2:26 p.m.

This is really cool. I'll always welcome another brewery in town. Can't wait to check it out.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Jul 24, 2009 : 1:35 p.m.

Good to have an experienced owner who knows the business and is interested in learning about his customers. I'd be interested in his take on the recent move to smoke-free bars and restaurants in the area.