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Pleasant Ridge

November 24, 2010

Cork opens doors in Pleasant Ridge

Now, Mae’s hopes to acquire city’s second liquor license

PLEASANT RIDGE — The city’s first-ever liquor license just went into effect with the opening of a long-awaited wine bar, and now a second Ridge business is hoping that city officials will grant its request for a liquor license.

At press time, Cork — which owner Nancy Crutchfield describes a “wine-bar-style restaurant” — was set to open for business on Nov. 23. Crutchfield spent the past year converting the 3,100-square-foot building from the offices of an architectural firm into a cozy hometown restaurant.

In December 2009, the Pleasant Ridge City Commission approved Crutchfield’s request for a Class C liquor license at Cork, located at 23810 Woodward Ave., at the corner of Woodward and Fairwood Boulevard. The decision marked a historic change for the tiny community, which had remained a “dry” city since it was founded in 1928.

At the time, some residents in the immediate area worried that the new wine bar would lead to excessive noise and overflow parking along the adjacent residential streets. But according to Crutchfield, one year later, those fears have largely been alleviated.

“I think the mood is pretty positive right now,” said Crutchfield, a Pleasant Ridge resident. “The neighbors on Fairwood had the most at stake, but I feel like we’ve mended our relationships with some of the people who were skeptical. We even hired a girl who lives on Fairwood as one of our waitresses.”

Cork has a dining room that can seat about 80 customers, as well as a retail shop for selling wine. While the shop is open during the daytime and closes at 4 p.m., the restaurant only operates during the afternoon and evening, closing at either 10 p.m. or midnight. In addition to wine and other drinks, Cork serves light dinners throughout the week and several dinner specials on the weekends.

By hiring 25 to 30 employees and purchasing the majority of her foods and beverages from local wineries, breweries and farmers markets, Crutchfield also hopes to provide a boost to the local economy.

While Crutchfield was busy bringing Cork to life this year, she was also working with the city to help renovate and expand the parking lot next to the restaurant. According to City Manager Sherry Ball, the project was undertaken as a joint effort between Crutchfield, the city and the Downtown Development Authority, and was financially supported by a $64,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The grant covered nearly all the costs for the paving work, and new lighting and landscaping were later added to the lot.

“It certainly is a great example of a public-private investment,” Ball said, “and we were fortunate that the MEDC rewarded those efforts. … Things worked out really well for everyone. Since Fairwood was being reconstructed at the same time, everything fell into place perfectly, timing-wise. It looks really beautiful over there now.”

Recently, the city also received a letter of interest from Sean and Jessica McCarthy, the owners of Mae’s restaurant at 24060 Woodward Ave., about acquiring a liquor license for their business. According to Jessica McCarthy, she and her husband are hoping to serve mimosas and Bloody Marys during their Sunday brunches, and possibly sell beer and wine at lunch. They are also seeking to rent Mae’s out for special events, such as baby showers and surprise parties, during the evening.

McCarthy stressed that residents in the area had no reason to be alarmed, however, as Mae’s — which closes at 4 p.m. each day — would not be extending or changing its hours.

“The last thing we would want is to do something to disturb the neighborhood,” said McCarthy, a Pleasant Ridge resident. “We have absolutely no intention of becoming a bar — we just want to be a restaurant that serves alcohol, and that’s a big difference.”

Although the McCarthys have not formally applied for the liquor license, they are taking the necessary steps to inform city officials of their intentions. The City Commission discussed the matter at its Nov. 9 meeting, but ultimately decided to postpone taking any action.

“The commission elected to wait three to six months to see what impact the first liquor license (at Cork) has on the community before they consider issuing a second one,” Ball explained. “I think they were pleased with the interest, though. They recognized that Mae’s has been a successful business for the city, so they want to take the time to give their request serious consideration.”

Mae’s, which opened in April, is still a new business in Pleasant Ridge, but McCarthy believes that it has already proven to be a positive addition to the city.

“We’re just the friendly neighborhood restaurant,” she said, “and everything we’re talking about adding would be in keeping with who we are as a business. We’ve been here for eight months now, so I would hope that we’ve established a good reputation and gained some respect from the neighbors.”

What the city decides to do about Mae’s request may ultimately rest in the hands of Cork, though. Ball noted that the city will continue to monitor parking and traffic levels in the area, but she does not anticipate any problems.

“Nancy has been wonderful to work with throughout this whole process,” she said. “It’s rare that someone gets to live out their dream, but I feel like she’s done it.”

Crutchfield agreed, noting that she is “ecstatic” to see Cork come to fruition. “I’ve been extremely impatient at times with how long everything has taken,” she admitted, “but it feels so great to finally be getting this place off the ground. Our whole aim here is just to have fun — we might not get rich off this, but we’re going to have a good time.”