Bringing nightlife to the east side

Local business owners want to make Eastpointe a hot spot

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 7, 2013

EASTPOINTE — Two Eastpointe residents, a restaurant owner and an entertainment company owner, are working together to bring a nightlife scene to Eastpointe.

Sidney Smith, known locally for his work with the Chamber of Commerce and in stand-up comedy and T-shirt design, recently made public his latest endeavor — a business called The Eastside Party, a booking agency and party-planning service — with a hopes of profitability, not only for himself, but also the city in which he resides.

“What we want to do is bring a Royal Oak feel to Eastpointe,” Smith said.

“We want to bring that feel to this side of town. There is a lot of potential and a lot of energy here. If you look at what Ferndale has been able to do over the last 10 years — it’s amazing what they have done with that Nine Mile and Woodward corridor that they have. It pretty much mirrors the Nine Mile and Gratiot corridor that we have here.”

By producing quality events at local venues, Smith is hoping he can be an inspirational force in making positive changes for the city. It’s an idea that many local business owners and officials support.

“We got our downtown area qualified for additional alcohol-related licensing opportunities outside of our quota that is given to us citywide (by the state), and there are indications here that (the City Council and residents) certainly want our city to be viable in all ways, including entertainment,” said Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane.

“We don’t want to just replicate what everybody else has, but we do have a downtown, we have the Kelly Road area, and we might as well put some of these areas to their best use, and we think that could be possible, and it is possible for it to be a door-to-door entertainment-district-type area.”

To that end, Smith is working with local restaurant owner Chris Sage, the co-owner at Sugar Bush Tavern, and together they’ve developed a plan for attracting the folks they refer to as the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. crowd.

“There are all kinds of bars in Eastpointe, but there’s nothing really happening here,” Sage said. “You have to make it happen. You have to take those steps to make it happen. Younger people want drink specials, entertainment and late-night food specials.”

The duo showcases their effort three days a week at Sugar Bush, located on 10 Mile Road, just west of I-94, with karaoke on Thursdays, disc jockeys on Fridays, a live band on Saturdays and drink specials all three nights from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I want to beef up the nightlife around here,” said Sage, who moved to the city to be close to the restaurant.

“We have a good dinner crowd and a great lunch crowd, and I’m hoping to get that 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. crowd next. We just want to spruce up the nightlife, at Sugar Bush and in Eastpointe.”

While The Eastside Party offers a variety of cooperate and individual booking and planning services, creating a nightlife district in Eastpointe is Smith’s ultimate hope.

“Eastpointe could transform the way Ferndale did,” Smith said. “It has potential. But it has to start somewhere, and that’s why it’s important for me to first help establish it at Sugar Bush. If you see it getting done somewhere else, it’s a whole lot easier to get it done yourself. If Sugar Bush is successful, other local venues will be more inclined to do what it takes to attract a younger crowd.”

Smith is dedicated to making Sugar Bush into a popular nightlife destination — so dedicated that he attends each event and refuses to produce more than one event at separate locations on the same night. So while The Eastside Party will continue to service individual and corporate clients with booking and party-planning needs, for the time being, Sugar Bush is the only bar at which he’ll be producing and promoting events.

“I have a lot of individuals to use, but there is only one of me and I don’t want to stretch myself too thin,” Smith said. “I like to be at everything I am producing to make sure everything goes right.”

When it was launched last month, The Eastside Party had 10 DJs, two party bus companies, six venues and more than 40 comedians operating under it, and it is actively expanding to include additional entertainment options.

The company services businesses and people across the Metro Detroit area and is dedicated to developing a nightlife scene on the Eastside, especially in Eastpointe.

“There’s a lot of opportunity around here,” Smith said. “And young people want to have things to do. We will get up and travel for it if we have to, but if there is something right there, in my backyard, I’m going to be patronizing that. Young people want things to do here. They’re hungry for it. You just have to give it to them. And that’s what I am going to do.”