Grand Rapids-based chain HopCat is wrapping up renovations in preparations for its first day of service in downtown Royal Oak. The three-story bar located in the former Woody’s and Onyx Modern Steakhouse & Whiskey Bar building at 208 5th Ave. is slated to open its doors to the public on Saturday at 11 a.m with the promise of free “crack fries” for a year to the first 200 customers.
Over the last several months the Royal Oak restaurant has undergone an extensive renovation costing upwards of $2.5 million. Designed by HopCat founder Mark Sellers, the interior features three distinct looks, 200 beer taps, and seats for 300 patrons. There are an additional 200 seats on the patio.
The ground floor pub features exposed brick and brown leather seats and a stairwell filled with mirrors leads up to a 1920s-inspired second floor that boasts Art Deco light fixtures, a mahogany bar, and a private events space.
Seller’s favorite part of the restaurant is the three-season, open air deck, which he recalls visiting when it was still Woody’s. “The only thing I liked about it was the view and the rooftop,” he says. At the time of Eater’s visit, the deck was still under construction but once completed will feature light pine wood panels, wooden orb light fixtures, and garage doors.
Plans for the Royal Oak location have been a longtime coming, according to Sellers who says BarFly was in talks to purchase the Woody’s building as far back as four years ago. “We actually negotiated with the Woody's owners to buy it then, but the price was too high and the timing just wasn't right for us,” he says. However, when the Woody’s ownership approached BarFly again with new terms HopCat was ready to strike a deal.
HopCat Royal Oak is the 13th location for the fast-growing Midwest chain. More locations are expected to debut very soon. HopCat Minneapolis could open by July followed by a St. Louis outpost in late-fall. A restaurant in Port St. Lucie, Florida, is on track to open in January 2018. The first HopCat debuted in 2008 in Grand Rapids.
Despite the company’s rapid growth, Sellers says his number one goal is always to maintain a small business culture. “The biggest part for me as a manager is trying to make it feel not like a corporate environment, so people can feel like they can be themselves at work,” he says. “We have about 2,000 employees in the whole company and we still don't make people wear a uniform.”
The company is also making strides in green initiatives. HopCat currently has one of the most extensive composting and recycling programs of any restaurant chain in the U.S. “We recycle and compost about 90 percent of our waste,” Sellers says.
Another thing that isn’t likely to change anytime soon? The crowd HopCat draws at openings. Similar locations have drawn hundreds of people with the lure of free crack fries and a massive selection of craft beer. Expect similar lines tomorrow with the launch of the Royal Oak restaurant and plan accordingly.
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