After more than 30 years, Casey’s Pub in Corktown will close its doors this month. Bobcat Bonnie’s partner Matthew Buskard tells Eater he’s signed a contract with Casey’s operator Andrea Relkin to take over the space and transform it into a California-style street taco concept.
The old-school bar known for its burgers was a favorite among baseball fans and area firefighters, though in recent years business had been sluggish. In January 2015, the bar briefly shuttered but was quickly revived with new menu items like fresh, hand-cut fries. Earlier this year, Casey’s was one of several bars and restaurants that appeared for sale on O’Connor Real Estate’s website. The 2,032-square-foot business is still listed for $489,900.
Buskard tells Eater he initially acted as a consultant for Casey’s, but eventually struck a deal with management to step-in and revamp the restaurant. Casey’s last day will be Sunday October 16. Buskard plans to use the bar space during a Slow Roll event on October 17 and will shut down for updates from October 18 through roughly November 1.
Buskard, who took over O’Blivions last year, says he hopes to preserve the bar’s character. “We love that Casey’s is that cool Detroit dive bar,” he says. “We don’t want to change that.” Transitioning the space into the as-of-yet-unnamed restaurant, will not involve a full renovation. “We’re going to definitely clean it up and do decorative touches, but we’re definitely still keeping it a dive bar that serves really killer tacos.”
The new owners plans to keep on Casey’s staff in addition to new hires. As for the concept, Buskard says he settled on the California-style taco menu after taking into consideration the space and the equipment available. “We thought we could do it extremely well and that it would fit the dive bar space,” he says.
Buskard is developing the menu himself, noting that he’s had experience creating taco recipes for food trucks and restaurants in the past. Asked why he chose a taco concept in light of the new and upcoming California-Mexican restaurants and nearby Southwest Detroit’s established restaurants and trucks, Buskard says, “I think that we can be pretty competitive in terms of quality and price.” He adds that the his goal isn’t to create tacos that claim “authenticity” like those found in family-owned taquerias of Southwest Detroit, but rather quality bar food.
In addition to refreshing the menu, the new concept will feature a full bar with margaritas prepared with fresh juices and a shortlist of California-made, Southern, and Mexican beers.
Bobcat’s crew aren’t the only ones with plans for tacos in Corktown. Ottava Via’s owners revealed plans for a Caribbean-style taco restaurant earlier this year. Stay tuned for more updates.
Update, 6:51 p.m.: Casey’s Pub’s owner shared her own thoughts on the closure in a post to Facebook:
To all of our friends and family who have supported Casey's for the past 30 plus years:
We want to thank you all for all the love and support you have shown us. From all the parade days, to the super bowl, to every Firefighters fundraiser, we have loved getting to know all of you, serving you a strong cocktail, and an amazing old school burger. The memories that are in this building and business will always stay with us.
As some of you know Detroit has been changing, and as times have changed so have the needs of the community and area. Back in the prime days we couldn't find enough seats for everyone, but over the past few years, for many factors the business has declined to a level that is no longer able to keep us afloat. We've looked for options, and have always had an amazing connection with our friends next door Bobcat Bonnie's. We've seen what they did next door, and how they worked hard to keep parts of O'Blivions while updating it into what it is now. After many talks with their ownership we have struck up a great deal that allows Casey's heart and soul continue on. They have agreed to keep all of our staff, and they didn't want to come in and tear up everything and make it unrecognizable. They very much so want to keep it a Detroit institution that continues to focus on everything that has made us special for the last 30 plus years, which is why we chose to partner with them over anyone else because it was important to us to keep Casey's alive in some fashion.
We have loved all the support you've shown us, and we are excited to be able to keep the place open and our staff well taken care of. Here's to 30 more years of 21st birthdays, firefighters fundraisers, and lots of strong drinks.
• All Coverage of Casey’s Pub [ED]