When Jerry Belanger opened the Park Bar
in December 2006, he didn’t even want to open a bar. As a theatre major and a passionate supporter of the performing arts, Belanger really
wanted to open a theatre and performing arts space.
"It’s really why I bought the building," he says. "This is the fulfillment of a long-term dream."
The bar had to come before the theatre out of financial necessity. "I had to do everything that was income-oriented first, and a theatre isn’t income-oriented. It’s all expense-oriented."
Over the last six years, the Elizabeth Theatre
, located upstairs from the Park Bar and Bucharest Grill, has been a slow work in progress.
"We started the renovation up there five years ago and slowly did concerts and shows," Belanger says. Since then they’ve built a stage as well as a full bar in the space, getting it in "good enough shape" to open. "It went from a really raw space (to a fully finished theatre)."
In addition to the bar and stage, they’ve now got theatre seat risers that seat 80, professional lighting, a sound booth, a lighting booth, and have just completed all of the major finishing touches to make the Elizabeth Theatre complete, though the labor of love isn’t quite yet complete. "Over the next year we will be doing a lot of detail work."
The Park Bar was also closed for a few days last week for some minor renovations of its own, which included refinishing the floor and reupholstering the furniture.
The Elizabeth Theatre is open every Friday and Saturday and hosts a variety of events, from concerts to stand-up comedy to film screenings. "We reserve the space for local performing arts. We don’t book anything that tours. These are all Detroit-centric performing events."
Last year, the inaugural Detroit Shakespeare Festival debuted at the Elizabeth, and this year they’re bringing it back starting March 14 and running through the end of April with Measure for Measure
Source: Jerry Belanger, owner of the Park Bar and Elizabeth Theatre
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
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