Pre-pandemic, when you found yourself wanting a cold drink and some conversation in the shopping district at Packard and Platt, the only place to go was Banfield’s Bar and Grill. A neighborhood staple since 1982, when brothers Tom and Will Banfield bought the former Fireside Lounge, it was where locals caught up with friends over cheap beer and burgers.
Then Covid wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. Banfield’s was gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness, with twenty kegs of beer and enough food to feed packed crowds, when the state shut down on March 16, 2020.
It was “the weirdest and hardest” time of his life, Micah Bartelme of BarStar Group told the Observer’s Josie Schneider that summer. He had to close his latest acquisition, the Aut Bar, and borrow money to pay the landlords and vendors of his remaining locations, Bab’s Underground, Nightcap, and Lo-Fi.
But that fall, Jan Hawkins, widow of Banfield’s owner Harry Hawkins, confirmed that she had put the building up for sale—and BarStar was the buyer.
Bartelme “was looking at this property for a while,” says Zack Zavisa, a longtime Banfield’s patron and BarStar’s director of operations. “When the opportunity arose, it was top of the list.”
They started by clearing out the twenty-keg stale beer museum, as well as “cases of beer, wine, and coolers jam-packed,” Zavisa recalls, with food purchased just before the shutdown. Then they went to work transforming Banfield’s into Monty’s Public House, the Monty in question being Bartelme’s pitbull.
Working with Momus Design, they moved the bar to the far wall, installed new flooring, and added large windows to bring in more natural light. Removing the drop ceilings and the fireplace in the middle of the dining room opened up the space. The white walls give it a minimalist esthetic, but only for now—Zavisa sees them as blank slates.
“I think it’s important to leave some aspects of the bar unfinished that fill over time,” he says. “It’s like you buy a house, [and] bring all the furniture in. Then, over the next two or three years, you put all the [stuff] on the wall. We’re fully expecting people to start coming through the doors and helping us shape the years to come.”
So far, “the majority of all the reviews have been really positive,” says Zavisa—though some were unhappy to see the fireplace go.
Like Banfield’s, Monty’s aims to be a neighborhood gathering place. General manager Jon Brodeur “thought it would be a really cool idea to put on the back of the [staff] shirts ‘Your second home,’ ” says Zavisa. “I really think one of the great things bars provide is that space. Banfield’s had that for a lot of people, and we very much want people to feel at home here.”
Drawing inspiration from English “public houses” (aka pubs), Monty’s opening menu includes comfort food like pimento cheese dip, burgers, and the requisite fish and chips. They’re bringing in pretzels from DJ’s Bakery across the street and commissioned their house lager from Wolverine State Brewing Company on W. Stadium. Zavisa plans to expand both the menu and hours, and an outdoor patio will open soon.
They plan to host viewing parties for Championship League soccer matches and other major sports events and to renovate the downstairs bar area as a community meeting place and event space—they’ve already gotten inquiries about booking it.
Monty’s Public House, 3140 Packard, (734) 929–5462. Sun. & Mon. 4–11 p.m., Tues.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight. montyspuba2.com