After more than a year of fixing up and more than a dozen years of dreaming, Eastern Palace Club in Hazel Park will open its doors to the public on Tuesday, January 17 — fittingly enough on National Bootlegger’s Day. The beach-themed bar features a wide selection of beer and wine, non-alcoholic cocktails, an emphasis on tequila and rum selections, and simple warm-weather cocktails like rum runners and frozen margaritas.
Co-owners Dustin Leslie, Adam O’Connor, and Mike Pierce bring a few decades of experience in the restaurant industry, having earned their chops in Ferndale, Flint, and Key West. Leslie lived in and managed a restaurant in Key West for about 10 years, and the trio draws inspiration from the chill beachside bars that give the island so much of its character.
“We’re aiming for a fun, social friendly, inclusive atmosphere,” says Pierce, where “anyone can come in, meet some friends, bounce around, enjoy some drinks, enjoy some barbecue from our partners at Smoked Lotus Barbecue, and just have a good time.” For the past few weeks, the bar has been hosting pop-ups from local nonprofits like Suck It Suicide, and the owners intend to continue this focus, with frequent fundraisers for local LGBTQ groups and other nonprofits. Opening night will feature a fundraiser for Oakland County nonprofit HAVEN, which aids victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Since both O’Connor and Pierce live in Hazel Park, Pierce says that they’re hoping to draw from the local “offbeat, funky, and fun atmosphere” inside the bar. Previously operating as a members-only social club, the space has been transformed into a close approximation of Key West’s storied dives like the Green Parrot, Captain Tony’s, and Sloppy Joe’s. Drop ceilings have been painted black and adorned with bright sails and netting. Faux grass and bamboo are everywhere, from the custom-built bar roof to the five cabanas, large but intimate booths that seat up to eight people. The bar top, shaped to resemble a wave, features hand-poured resin evocative of sand flowing over waves.
It’s less of a tiki bar, says Pierce, and more of a beach hut. “We want to cultivate a space that’s like going to the beach with your friends,” says Pierce. “Not as a one-off spectacle, but more like a daily hangout. I feel like bars have become a bit less social. You should be able to go to the bar, strike up a conversation, make friends, or bring your friends. And that’s the type of atmosphere we’re hoping to cultivate here.”
To that end, Eastern Palace Club features a pool table, Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, and pinball. Buckets of beer will be a regular special, and sangria and frozen drinks will add to the conviviality. The building’s largest feature, a massive interior wall with a tranquil beach scene video projected, will lull drinkers into forgetting the cold, gray Michigan weather outside for a moment. As for music, occasional guest DJs will be supplemented by a regular soundscape of Dad rock, yacht rock, new wave, and surf rock: As Pierce says, “all of the music you think you would hear in Key West or while at the beach with your friends. It’s not all steel drums and Jimmy Buffett.”
Eastern Palace Club shares space with a relative Hazel Park newcomer, Smoked Lotus BBQ, which will be available to guests during the hours the bar is open. Late night specials including poutine, pulled pork blooming onions, mac and cheese, and other barbecue staples.
For now, both Eastern Palace Club and Smoked Lotus will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight. Pierce says they’re starting out as walk-in only but may switch to reservations for the five cabana spaces if demand warrants it. The space will also be available for private party rentals. The owners plan to host several events on the large patio space during the spring and summer as Hazel Park’s south end social district gets underway. Says Pierce, “This tiny little bubble of the South End is definitely picking up some steam quickly, so we’re happy to be a part of that.”
Eastern Palace Club is at 21509 John R Rd in Hazel Park.