West Michigan town, ‘dry’ until 2006, could double its restaurants serving alcohol this year

ZEELAND, MI — The number of restaurants selling alcohol in Zeeland could more than double this year following the relaxation of city rules regarding the number of establishments and the types that can serve it.

Three restaurants have so far expressed interest or are in the process of obtaining alcohol licenses following Zeeland City Council’s unanimous vote in December to ease its alcohol restrictions. This vote removed the maximum number of establishments that could serve alcohol in the city and granted eligibility to smaller restaurants to serve alcohol.

“We hope that we will be able to set up the new licenses and be able to take advantage of the summer season; it would be a really big benefit to our downtown,” said Abby deRoo, the city’s director of marketing. “We are delighted that they are all happening during the same period.”

DeRoo said the restaurants will complement the city’s social district, an area about two blocks from the city’s downtown core where people can enjoy take-out alcoholic beverages from licensed restaurants. Currently, those visiting the Social District can only purchase alcohol from one restaurant.

Before the December vote, only up to four restaurants could serve alcohol for consumption on the premises and they had to have 50 seats or more. These rules were put in place in 2006, when Zealand ended its nearly 100-year-old ban on the sale of alcohol.

With the recent closings, only two of the four licensees are currently in operation and serving alcohol.

Related: West Michigan city, ‘dry’ until 2006, removes liquor license cap

Margaritas, local beers and French wine, beer and cocktails would be among the new downtown offerings that restaurants seeking liquor licenses want to bring.

Two of the restaurants that require liquor licenses are currently in operation. The third has yet to open but will announce its name, concept and location soon, deRoo said. She said she expects this new restaurant to seek city approval for a liquor license within about a month.

StrEATs Taco Kitchen, 14 S. Elm St., was the first to submit its application to the city and is currently awaiting state approval for a liquor license. Owner Mitch Bakker said he hopes his restaurant will receive its license to serve on-site sometime in the spring.

StrEATs opened in June 2021 and is a non-traditional taco kitchen that serves its tortilla offerings with a global twist, from their Korean-style marinated short ribs taco to their roasted taco closer to home with mustard sauce, red potatoes and more.

Finding a liquor license wasn’t initially part of the plan, Bakker said, but being part of the social neighborhood where people could bring their takeout drinks from another establishment to StrEATs to enjoy with a taco a triggered these discussions. This is something that customers had also expressed.

“We definitely had, in the summer, people having a beer with their tacos as part of the social district,” Bakker said. “It was kind of a foray into the fact that we even had discussions about, ‘Well, maybe we should apply for a liquor license.’ We felt like the community wanted that.

If the state approves StrEATs’ request, Bakker said he plans to offer local margaritas, wine and beers. StrEATs is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

La Creme Creamery and Creperie, 111 E. Main Ave., plans to submit its liquor license application to the city in late February, with an attempt to submit it to city council for approval in March and then to the state, a said Kim DeYoung, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Scott DeYoung.

If all goes well, the French bistro could be cleared to start serving “unique” French wines, French beers and signature French cocktails between April and June, DeYoung said.

La Creme is currently a daytime cafe offering pancakes, soups, salads, quiches, artisan ice cream, French baked goods, and a full espresso bar.

But with the license to sell alcohol, DeYoung has a host of changes and projects in mind.

DeYoung envisions pop-up events where people can pre-book a table to drink wine and feast on a platter of charcuterie representing different regions of France. The bistro would also expand its evening hours, around 8 p.m., two nights a week to play a bigger role in the city’s social district and downtown events.

Currently, La Creme is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Regardless of the liquor license, in two weeks they will also be open on Tuesdays during those hours, DeYoung said.

La Creme is also applying for a take-out license that would allow customers to purchase and take home wines, beers and cocktails.

“I feel like we’re exploding in a lot of different directions right now and we have a really great staff and a lot of people who want to walk with us in these new ventures,” DeYoung said.

La Creme doubles as a venue, hosting rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, open houses, birthday parties and more. The ability to serve alcohol, DeYoung said, would complement that aspect of the business.

The bistro opened in December 2018, and it wasn’t until the 2020 pandemic that DeYoung and her husband began evaluating ways to increase traffic, sales, and deals, which led them to the idea of ​​applying for a liquor license.

“I talked to a couple of our regulars about it recently, and they’re very excited,” DeYoung said. “And I’ve had people in the past say to me, ‘I love your pancakes, the savory pancakes and the sweet pancakes are amazing, but a glass of wine would go so well with them. I couldn’t agree more.”

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