CASCADE TOWNSHIP — Hamburger Mary’s is set to open its first Michigan location later this month near Grand Rapids, bringing with it the karaoke, drag shows and drag queen bingo the restaurant franchise is known for.
Local operators Doug Hanchett and Tom Zarkowski planned to open the first of two Hamburger Mary’s Michigan locations in Ypsilanti, but the focus shifted to Grand Rapids after pandemic-related complications. The Ypsilanti location is now “indefinitely on hold,” Hanchett said.
The restaurant is set to open Oct. 28 at 6240 28th St. SE in Cascade Township, which previously housed the Blue Moose Sports Pub.
“You can’t do the typical stuff for Halloween this year, so we want to figure out how we can have fun drag events and do different shows safely,” Hanchett said.
“We’ve chosen to open during a pandemic because everybody needs to have a little fun and get out and we’re offering that in a safe environment,” Hanchett added. “We’re super excited to be in West Michigan.”
Along with following employee and customer safety guidelines, the restaurant plans to cap capacity at 75, including during events, Hanchett said.
The owners have invested about $150,000 into the 6,700-square-foot restaurant that now features bright pink walls and chandeliers. Around 45 people will be staffed at the location, Hanchett said.
The Hamburger Mary’s franchise started in 1972 in San Francisco as an “open-air bar and grille for open-minded people,” and is now a staple in the LGBTQ community with 15 restaurants. Other locations include Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver and West Hollywood. The owners pride themselves in being LGBTQ-owned while also ensuring everyone is welcome, Hanchett said.
“One of our first questions we ask in interviews is: ‘Are you open-minded?’” Hanchett said. “We’ll be doing some diversity and inclusion training when we hire people to really hammer home and ensure that if someone is from a different walk of life that you have some kind of knowledge or training such as using proper pronouns to make sure everyone feels welcome.”
Hanchett has been doing drag for about 19 years under the name Chanel Hunter and will occasionally perform at Hamburger Mary’s. He previously lived in Grand Rapids for about five years with his partner and co-owner, Zarkowski.
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