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What does the rebranding of a local hot spot signify for the future of Grand Rapids nightlife? This interview with owner/operator Dave Reinert reveals the bittersweet closing of Monte's Lounge and the grand opening of his newest West Side venue,The Establishment.

/Photo Courtesy of Owner/Operator Dave Reinert

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Get In On the Action: November 17th Launch Party

Details are available on The Establishment's Facebook page:

October 29, 2011 marked the last “hurrah” for Bridge Street icon Monte's Lounge. Though the bar may have shuttered its door as the last revelers staggered out into the brisk October evening, they will soon re-open, but under the guise of something completely different.

“The Establishment,” owned and operated in part by David Reinert (of Rockwell/Republic and O'Tooles fame), promises to reinvigorate the Bridge Street “Barmuda” Triangle. The venue, named as such because the building has operated in some way or another as a bar for the last fifty years, will step onto the scene with a fresh aesthetic previously unseen in Grand Rapids.

Reinert describes the décor as “SoHo (New York) in the late sixties. All of these artists and musicians living- illegally- above these storefronts in these huge converted lofts. Exposed duct work, brick, high ceilings-you get the idea.”

While Monte's Lounge was known for its Tuesday night dance mix, Reinert says that The Establishment will be considerably more diverse, both in what type of entertainment it books and the type of crowd it draws.

“We never really set out to make Monte's Lounge a night club. It sort of just happened. With The Establishment, we're going to focus on an even split: fifty percent DJ's and dance mixes, fifty percent live, local talent. We want it to be the place that everyone can feel comfortable in.”

Much of the decision to revamp the bar's image comes from Reinert's desire to see a diverse crowd willing to call The Establishment home-and a desire to see increased interaction between the crowd at neighboring bar O'Tooles Public House as well.

“Right now, we have maybe fifteen, twenty percent carryover between the two establishments. With the reinvention of the bar's brand image, we're hoping to see that increase to over eighty-five percent.”

As ambitious as those figures may seem, Reinert is quick to point out that this is exactly what the business climate in Grand Rapids calls for.

“Nightlife in Grand Rapids has evolved at a breakneck pace in the last decade. What made Monte's popular then doesn't necessarily make it popular now, and we realize that. We're constantly making changes to all of our establishments: menu items, furniture, beer and wine selection-anything to enhance our core competency and stay ahead of the game. Yes, the market share in Grand Rapids has increased in the last ten years, but so has the competition. Today it's about chasing a specific target market, and being the best at satisfying their wants and needs.”

As of now, there are no current plans to revamp the other locations, but who knows what tomorrow's business strategy might call for.

“You need a constant stream of new ideas to stay sharp in this industry,” Reinert says.

And it's hard to disagree with him. In the last year, Grand Rapids has seen the opening of Mark Sellers' (Stella's, The Viceroy, Hopcat) new music venue Pyramid Scheme, the re-branding of Bridge Street's own Banger's (formerly Louie's/The Rocket Lounge), and the closing of The Cambridge House, located just over the river. Indeed the climate does appear to be changing-whether or not it's for the better remains to be seen.

The grand opening is set for November 17 at The Establishment, located at 438 Bridge Street Grand Rapids, MI 49504.  

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