A new restaurant planning to open its doors in Oxford Township in late July got one step closer to being able to pour its patrons a round of ice-cold beers to wash down their savory assortment of smoked meats.
In a 7-0 vote, the township board last week passed a resolution approving the issuance of a Class C liquor license to Concho Pearl, a traditional Texas-style barbecue joint that’s moving into 955 S. Lapeer Rd., the site of the old Big Boy restaurant.
“They have a smoker that . . . has the ability to smoke 1,000 pounds of meat a time,” noted attorney Kelly A. Allen, a partner in the Bloomfield Hills-based law firm of Adkison, Need, Allen and Rentrop, which is representing the new restaurant.
“So, hopefully, you’ll come hungry.
The township’s approval is actually a recommendation that will now be forwarded to the state Liquor Control Commission (LCC), which has the final say over whether or not the license is granted.
Class C licenses allow establishments to sell – at retail – beer, wine, mixed-spirit drinks and spirits for consumption on the premises. Bars and restaurants need this type of license to sell alcoholic beverages to their patrons.
Concho Pearl is going to be owned and operated by a big family consisting of Michael and Lee Ann Spake, Mary Laughlin, Kelby Spake, Danika Dunlap, Nolan Dunlap and John Young.
The applicants for the liquor license are Michael and Lee Ann Spake, who live in Lapeer County’s Columbiaville, and Laughlin, who resides in Pontiac.
That night, the township board also voted 7-0 to approve a two-page agreement designed to ensure that if a liquor license is issued to Concho Pearl, it will not leave the community as some others have in the past.
The township has only three Class C liquor licenses available – including the one being sought by Concho Pearl – and officials don’t wish to see them sold or transferred to establishments outside of Oxford.
“We have agreed to take certain steps to keep this license in the township,” Allen said.
Under the agreement, “if for any reason, except for fire or acts of God,” Concho Pearl should “discontinue” using the liquor license for a period of more than 90 consecutive days “without prior written consent (from) the township,” the restaurant will “return” the license to the LCC, and “request that its rights to (it) be terminated” and that it be “returned to the township” as an available license.
As long as the liquor license remains “within the boundaries of the township,” nothing in the agreement prohibits Concho Pearl from “selling, assigning or transferring its interest” in the license and/or business, or “from transferring the location of” the license, provided approvals are obtained from both the township and LCC.
If Concho Pearl does transfer, sell or assign its interest in the liquor license and/or business, the agreement obligates it to “make the provision, as a requirement of said sale” that the purchaser shall either “abide by the terms of this (existing) agreement” or “enter into a new agreement with the township under the same terms and conditions.”
“They don’t plan on going anywhere real soon,” assured Allen.
She noted Concho Pearl’s owners have a five-year lease for the restaurant space with two five-year options to extend it. “My gut tells me and my experience tells me that they’re going to be so successful that they’ll be here for a lot longer,” Allen told the board.
During the public hearing for the liquor license application, four people spoke in favor of granting Concho Pearl’s request and spoke highly of the family.
“I think they are really interested in investing in our community and I think it would be a great place to have our young teens work,” said Jackie Slezak, a 16-year Oxford resident.
Jen Zyngier, a 13-year Oxford resident, told the board having a family restaurant in the township would be a “great asset,” especially “now that a lot of them . . . have closed.”
Zyngier said she has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including two establishments in Oxford Township that are no longer open – Chili’s Grill & Bar (closed 2009) and Montana’s Rib & Chophouse (closed 2014).
She’s hoping for a job at Concho Pearl.
“I’d love to bartend for them,” Zyngier said.
Concho Pearl plans to employ approximately 30 to 40 people.
According to the restaurant’s operating plan, Concho Pearl will be open Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In keeping with the family atmosphere the owners hope to cultivate, “(these hours) will reduce the number of customers who are looking for a bar to spend their evenings,” the plan stated.