Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Tear in my beer

6. February 2008 • Josh Steichmann
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In case you haven’t heard, the Leopold brothers are leaving Ann Arbor

(Justifiably) high rents are cited. Denver to be new location.

  1. I wonder at what point radical anti-density downtown advocatates raise the “value” of a downtown to the point it becomes indistinguishable from a strip mall. Its a damn good thing we got a nice one-of-a-kind joint like Bar Louie to replace the chain-bar that is Leopolds. Also, todd, it figures that after 3 years of hearing SNRE grads rave about board-games and homemade whiskey, you have to up and leave the year I turn 21. Finally, following the paths of most UMich grads who flee the state as far as their degrees will cary them, I second the vote you move to NYC.

    -Disgruntled Student

       —disgruntledstudent    Feb. 7 '08 - 12:37AM    #
  2. which part of denver? im curious to see if they find something close to the center of denver at a reasonable rate…

       —bob kuehne    Feb. 7 '08 - 05:01AM    #
  3. According to the Ann Arbor News, the reasons may be simple. “Moving to Denver will be a homecoming of sorts for the Leopold brothers, who grew up about 10 miles south of Denver in Littleton, Colo. In Denver, they do not plan to open another pub or even brew beer. They will open a production facility to continue making spirits including vodka, gin and whiskey.

    Colorado law allows for what’s called self-distribution, which means producers can sell their spirits directly to liquor and grocery stores, said Leopold. Already, Leopold’s has its spirits in 200 retail locations in Colorado since starting to distribute in the state last year.”

    It sounds like a sound business decision. And a great opportunity for some valedictory whining.

       —anonymous too    Feb. 7 '08 - 07:36AM    #
  4. Yeah, anonymous too, it sounds like shrewd business plus whining opportunity if I’ve ever heard it as well. I mean, closing down a bar that turns a profit…genius! And moving an entire distillery across the country only has to cost, what, thirty bucks? Okay, maybe twenty five if you have a helper and they pitch in for gasoline.

       —FAA    Feb. 7 '08 - 06:21PM    #
  5. I mean, closing down a bar that turns a profit…genius!

    I can certainly understand them being more interested in running a distillery business (and in a state more amenable to doing so), but if the existing Leopold’s is profitable (and would be at the new higher rent), why not sell it (including a license to continue to distill and sell Leopold’s spirits on site)? Once their lease is up, they’ve got really nothing to lose — if the new owner goes belly-up, they still get more out of it than they would have if they just shuttered the place.

       —mw    Feb. 8 '08 - 12:34AM    #
  6. Maybe because it would be unprofitable when the rent goes up, so who would buy the business?

    I think this is another example of the rabid anti-business, anti-growth policies of Ann Arbor. I am considering my escape too. I’m sick of watching my neighbors not be able to find jobs, and watching vacancy signs go up in storefronts.

    todd has been a vibrant contributor to debates about the city and its future, and now he’s pulling up stakes. It really makes me wonder why I’d stay here and wait for business to pick up. I thought AA was immune, but it’s not.

       —Cooler Heads    Feb. 8 '08 - 09:46PM    #
  7. Hi gang. We’re closed now, so I don’t mind answering the questions above.

    Bob K., our new site is about 10 minutes from Coors Field on the North side of Denver. We pay $4.75 per square foot in a nice 10 year old building. We get some nice tax breaks because it’s in an enterprise zone. To give you an idea of how this changes our costs, one month’s rent and taxes in Ann Arbor pays for a year’s worth of the same at our new location. The City helped us with site selection.

    FAA, our potstill was shipped together with my personal belongings. Either the still shipped to Colorado for free, or my personal belongings did. Take your pick.

    MW, have you ever heard of how you can boil a live frog in a pot of water if you just slowly heat it up? Well, I think that the business environment in Ann Arbor is a bit like that. You don’t notice all the overhead changes if you’re in the pot for too long.

    Since we opened in 1999, our rent and taxes increased by over $150K per year. That’s not peanuts. Or at least it isn’t to my family. This is before the new lease was proposed to us. The proposed lease asked for even more. If you can make up that kind of money at our site free and clear, you’re a smarter man than I am.

    And we couldn’t sell our business. For one, you can’t sell a Federal Distiller’s permit, and we’re certainly not going to hand over the recipes and processes that we use to make our spirits. You also can’t sell a MI Microbrewing license. We’re taking all of our licenses, articles of incorporation, etc. with us. There’s nothing left to sell.

    My brother and I loved our time here. I will miss all of you. I wish all of you well, and hope for nothing but the best for Ann Arbor.

       —todd    May. 30 '08 - 06:30AM    #
  8. Best of luck Todd. We will all miss you! It is sad to walk by Leopold Brothers now. Are you going to retain the name Leopold Brothers and keep It would be good if we could all keep up with what you guys are doing and say “I remember when …” I assume you aren’t selling anywhere in Michigan, correct? How ‘bout Chicago?

       —Juliew    May. 30 '08 - 08:32PM    #
  9. We’re working on Chicago, Julie.

    We’ll be updating our website in a few weeks.

    Julie, I want to thank you for all your work on Arbor Update and AAIO. You truly make Ann Arbor a better place.


       —todd    May. 31 '08 - 07:10AM    #
  10. An article in the Ann Arbor News says that the Leopold building might become a 13-story hotel. I would be sad to see the building go, but it is a good spot for something taller and a good spot for a hotel. My concerns right off the bat would be the flood plain and parking. Not sure 45 parking spots is enough for an 139-room hotel. There is bound to be discussion on the height. Thirteen stories is taller than recommended in the upcoming city downtown plans for this zone (although I would have to see what the FAR is for the site). Although I think anything more than three or four stories would have the same impact on the neighbors behind the building because they are so close.

       —Juliew    Jun. 3 '08 - 01:27AM    #
  11. Well, at least now you all know what Scott and I were up against. The writing was on the wall the minute that building was purchased for an absurd sum. For one, the new owner purchased the building sight-unseen. Unless you’re a complete moron, you should know as a tenant with a few months left on the lease that something is in the hopper for your site. Secondly, he paid an amount so high that even an obscene amount of rent would cover the landlord’s note.

    In other words, it was clear that leasing the site wasn’t the guy’s first option. In addition, the firm went on a buying spree, picking up everything on the block save Fingerle lumber. Obviously, something was up.

    There were quite a few notables who had a look at the site for leasing. We tried to call around to find a local owner for the bar itself (not to sell it, but to find a good “guardian” of the site, so to speak). To a person, the problem was the overhead (rent and taxes) were too high to make it work. It should be obvious to all of you that the landlord had other intentions than keeping Leopold’s around.

    It’s a lovely building, and we even won a few awards for rehabbing the old building, and trying to show off the beautiful hollow-clay tile (the walls) that were made in Michigan kilns long ago. It’ll be sad to see the old girl go. The Iron spans were actually marked off in rods. How Teutonic.

    Of course, he has to get past the neighbors first if he wants to put up the Hotel.

    : )

    Have a great summer everyone.

       —todd    Jun. 3 '08 - 06:29AM    #
  12. Uh Todd, just to be the devil’s advocate here, isn’t this sort of building exactly what you have been saying Ann Arbor has needed for years? As many as we can build? OK, so it is only 13 stories rather than 20, but I thought you would be happy about this! Getting rid of a one-story building in a spot that certainly could use more height and building up. Sure, it is a cool building, just like Anberay, or the Greek church on North Main, or the houses at 828 Greene. Why were you so gung-ho about those projects but soft about this one? Could it be that a bit of the Ann Arbor NIMBYness has crept in, in spite of your best efforts …

       —Juliew    Jun. 4 '08 - 01:00AM    #
  13. I would just like to note that I believe it was well over a year ago when I said attention needed to be paid to the South Main area. This is what I was talking about.

    Having said that, I’m not opposed to a tall hotel on that location. I would vastly, vastly prefer that both Leopold’s and the current building remain there. (Let me also reiterate my opposition to The Gallery while I’m at it, in its current configuration.) But if this is what the landlord wants to do with his property, well, I can’t see a good reason to stop him. It’s a suitable site for what he has in mind. (Depending, as Juliew said, on the floorplan, as well as the architecture.) Like I say, this is what happens without appropriate attention from the powers that be.

    I’m actually starting to wonder about Fingerle now…the DDA is starting to talk about a convention center, after all…gulp!

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jun. 4 '08 - 04:22AM    #
  14. I’m actually starting to wonder about Fingerle now…the DDA is starting to talk about a convention center, after all…gulp!

    Fingerle’s has had a target on it for a long time. Supposedly the company already owns land on the outskirts of Ann Arbor to move to when the time is right (and a buyer with big pockets appears). But much of Fingerle’s property is in the middle of the floodway proper so it would take some doing to create a convention center around it. On the other hand, if you were clever, having a large convention center with a greenway running through it would make you look pretty cool …

       —Juliew    Jun. 4 '08 - 05:04AM    #
  15. Heh. Nope. No nimby here. Never said I was against the project. All I wrote was that it’ll be sad to see the Aprill Building go.

    Build away. It’d be neat if they could pull it off. A ground floor hotel bar would be super for the neighborhood, don’t you think?

    I have to say that I was thinking the same thing (the irony of a position) when I was reading the Chicken ordinance thread, and noticed that you and Steve B. were against getting a neighbor’s permission for a chicken coop. Pretty ironic, don’t you think? Dave C. got it right away.

    So in essence, you don’t want a neighbor controlling what another property owner can and cannot do? How enlightened! That would mean that you’d want Ann Arbor to be run like a City, and not like a covenant-controlled subdivision with matching garbage cans and basketball hoops!

    All in fun.

    P.S., have you considered that some chickens are quite tall, and can cast shadows on a neighbors property?

       —todd    Jun. 4 '08 - 08:06AM    #
  16. Todd, please, don’t do me like that! “Heh. Nope. No nimby here. Never said I was against the project.” Did you say that or did I? ;-)

    Sorry to see you go. I’ve enjoyed the discussion. Sorry again for the occasional miscommunication. I’ll keep wearing my LB t-shirt, but it may not last much longer since I bought it the first month you were open.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 4 '08 - 08:26AM    #
  17. : )

    We’re sorry to go, too. And I have indeed enjoyed our discussions, Steve. The miscommunication was more often on my side than yours. Sometimes I let my temper and petty sarcasm get the best of me, and for that I apologize.

    But we got like that because we both love the community we live in, right, Steve? It’s why I sparred with Cahill, and vice versa, and why I’d still buy the man a beer if I ran into him. Hopefully, he’d accept it.


       —todd    Jun. 4 '08 - 08:41AM    #
  18. But we got like that because we both love the community we live in, right, Steve?

    Exactly. Best wishes for success and good community in Denver.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 4 '08 - 05:43PM    #
  19. I for one welcome our new towering hotel overlords.

       —Fred Zimmerman    Jun. 4 '08 - 06:37PM    #
  20. Re: speculation on Fingerle

    Today’s News

       —HD    Jun. 25 '08 - 10:46PM    #
  21. Dang! $22 million! But yeah, no surprise there. Well, the price is a bit of a surprise, but they do have a lot of land. Much of it in the floodway, which limits residential development, but still very buildable for commercial uses.

       —Juliew    Jun. 26 '08 - 12:35AM    #
  22. If the proposed AA – Howell commuter train ever ran south of the Huron River, someone could have a great transit stop location at the intersection of the RR, Main and 5th. Something like this perhaps?

       —John Q.    Jun. 26 '08 - 05:47AM    #
  23. I heard about Leopold Brothers from a friend here in Boulder that moved out here from Ann Arbor, and am so happy you guys are here as well as excited to come down to see your new set-up. Welcome back to CO!

       —Easystreet    Jul. 7 '08 - 07:48AM    #
  24. Re: Fingerle. Sweet, I totally called it.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 8 '08 - 05:38AM    #