ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A new restaurant born out of a pandemic partnership will soon open in downtown Zeeland.
Earlier this week, the Zeeland City Council followed the Michigan Liquor Control Commission in approving a liquor license transfer from the former Elbo Room to the new restaurant, currently nicknamed Frank’s East. The approval clears the way for owner Teresa VanderZwaag to begin training staff and renovating the space at 136 E. Main Ave. between Elm and Church streets.
The space has been operating as a private banquet event space for Frank’s Restaurant, which is the longest-running restaurant in the Zeeland area, according to the city.
The city says VanderZwaag, who operates The Farmhouse restaurant several blocks away, came across the banquet facility while trying to find a place to offer her customers a socially distanced private dining option at the height of the pandemic. Frank’s Restaurant was focused on curbside service only at the time and wasn’t using the banquet space.
Shane Hammer, the fourth-generation owner of Frank’s, agreed to allow VanderZwaag to use the space as needed. In turn, she stepped in to help cook at Frank’s so it could reopen for lunch six days a week.
As their friendship grew, so did VanderZwaag and Hammer’s plans to transform Frank’s banquet space into its own business. The new restaurant will have its own name, address and liquor license, but will be connected to the original Frank’s Restaurant by a hallway. Both restaurants will share restrooms and a kitchen, which means they will not be open at the same time, at least initially.
VanderZwaag plans to open the new restaurant by spring or early summer with limited hours and a movable bar and furniture so the space can still accommodate previously scheduled banquet events, a city news release states. VanderZwaag is planning a more extensive renovation later, which will include permanent furnishings and more consistent business hours, according to the city.
VanderZwaag will continue to operate The Farmhouse and partner with Hammer at Frank’s indefinitely, the news release notes.
Frank’s Restaurant opened in 1924, passing down through four generations of the founding Dionise family. Hammer is the founder’s great-grandson.
The Zeeland City Council on Monday also approved a Development District Area license for La Crème, located at 111 E. Main Ave. That application now goes to the state liquor license commission for consideration.
Zeeland City Marketing Director Abby deRoo say the new liquor licenses and the recent application by StrEATS Taco Kitchen are all because of alcohol ordinance changes the city approved in December.