GR tiki bar jumps on to-go cocktails to support slumping sales

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A tiki bar in Grand Rapids has become one of the first spots in Michigan to begin selling to cocktails to go.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed a bill into law allowing restaurants and bars to offer to-go cocktails.

By late afternoon, Max’s South Seas Hideaway on Ionia Avenue south of Fulton Street began offering its signature cocktails to go in specially designed 8-ounce cans.  

Inside Max’s South Seas Hideaway in Grand Rapids. (July 1, 2020)

Owner Mark Sellers hopes the cocktails will bring a much-needed boost to business as restaurants and bars across the state continue to struggle because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We specialize in cocktails so half our sales our food and half our sales our cocktails,” Sellers said. “So we were able to sell food to go here for the last few months so that was enough to keep some of our employees working and keep the lights on, but without being able to sell alcohol, it was impossible to make a profit.” 

Sellers said sales are down 50% from before the pandemic, which is why the tiki palace is ready to make the most of the new law.  

To Sellers, selling to-go cocktails offers much more to customers than just wine and beer.  

“Beer and wine (to-go sales) were legal and have been all along, but you can get those at a liquor store,” he said. “You don’t have to order from a restaurant to get beer, but with cocktails people don’t necessarily know how to make those at home and we use a lot of different ingredients in our craft cocktails, so most people don’t know how to make those and they weren’t able to make them at home.” 

Inside Max’s South Seas Hideaway in Grand Rapids. (July 1, 2020)

To go cocktails can be ordered online for curbside pickup or customers can order drinks to go while dining in at Max’s.  

Following Whitmer’s announcement Wednesday about shutting down indoor bar service for certain parts of the state, Max’s posted to Facebook to inform customers that it is still open for in-house drinking and dining.  

“Governor Whitmer just issued an order temporarily closing Michigan bars who generate less than 30% of their sales from food,” the post stated in part. “This does not affect Max’s. We sell a ton of food. You want food, we got food. Lots of it. Carry on! (And please order some food and cocktails to go on our website MaxsTiki.com).” 

Sellers said other establishments he’s associated with like HopCat and Stella’s Lounge also have plans to begin selling to-go cocktails in the near future. 

The to-go cocktails for sail at Max’s South Seas Hideaway in Grand Rapids. (July 1, 2020)

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