A Pyramid Scheme is emerging in a moldy old downtown building on Commerce Avenue.
Share Something might be brewing next door, too. But these aren't the shady dealings that the block might have seen in decades past.
Instead, they're the work of bar owners intent on expanding downtown's offerings.
Mark and Michele Sellers, the husband-wife owners of three downtown bars, are partnering with the brother-sister team of Jeff and Tami VandenBerg, who own The Meanwhile Bar at 1005 Wealthy St. SE, to launch The Pyramid Scheme, a live music venue and bar, inside the former Maxi's Bar at 68 Commerce Ave. SW. Next door, at 62 Commerce, the Sellerses plan Beatnik Brewing, a brewpub, in what is currently an office building. Both places are expected to open in early 2011 after about $2.4 million worth of improvements. The openings are contingent upon receiving approvals from the city and the state Liquor Control Commission.
The Pyramid Scheme would hold about 450 people for rock and alternative rock shows along with another 175 people in a separate bar and patio.
Mark Sellers said the idea for Beatnik grew out of his love for craft brews and what he sees as a relatively small number of places brewing their own beer in Grand Rapids.
"There are 43 brewpubs in Portland, Ore., and in Grand Rapids, there are about five, and Grand Rapids is more than half the size of Portland," Sellers said. "Plus, in Grand Rapids there is not a restaurant-brewpub except for Grand Rapids Brewing Co., and that serves a different market."
Beatnik will have more of a food focus than Hopcat, which offers its own brews and dozens of selections from around the world.
Sellers also said he hopes the place will attract families to its second floor, where he wants to install an eight-lane miniature bowling system.
"The lanes are 40 feet, you wear street shoes -- you don't have to wear bowling shoes -- and it's a 5-pound ball so kids can compete with parents."
The brewpub also is expected to include a deck on top of 68 Commerce along with a private event space available for groups being served by any of the Sellerses' bars.