by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
Driving by the brick building once known as the Brooks Hotel would evoke the same “what a shame” reaction.
The two-story building along the west side of North Third Street in Rogers City was constructed in 1928, the same year as the Grambau Center (former high school).
While both have stood the test of time, life in downtown Rogers City has gone on without the Brooks Hotel building for decades.
Lifelong Rogers City resident Scott McLennan wants to do something about it by breathing new life into a building filled with nostalgia and memories. He has owned it for a little more than a week. “I love Rogers City,” he said. “I feel like if I am not going to do something like this, who is going to and when is it going to happen.”
Not many people have walked through the entrance doors the last quarter of a century, but inside, there is nothing left from the glory days.
“We have four walls – everything has been stripped out,” said McLennan, standing in the middle of the largest room with rain dripping loudly by a missing window. When he says everything is missing, that includes all the plumbing and much of the electrical.
“The old bar that people remember, that’s gone,” said McLennan. “Everything is gone, it is completely empty.”
He said people have been reminiscing on social media about the former Brooks Hotel and the fun they had there, but the new business is not going to be what they remembered.
“We are going to breathe life into it, but it is not going to be Brooks,” said McLennan. “My goal, though, is to make something they will, and future generations will remember, as a very cool venue.”
It’s a big project that’s going to take some time.
The general contractor told McLennan the building has “ ‘great bones.’ It’s well built and it is going to be around a long time…When they built this building, they did it right.”
It won’t even be ready for the summer season or festival.
It might be ready by next spring, said McLennan, who worked on a business plan before taking over ownership. He had only stepped inside the building three weeks ago.
McLennan wants to bring a gastropub to downtown offering craft beers and quality food. He has met with other owners and people who work in the industry. “I researched it and talked with the state of Michigan about it,” said McLennan. “That part is done, now it’s the nuts and bolts. Now, it’s figuring out what we are going to put in it and how.
“We only know at this point it is going to be great food, it’s going to be Michigan craft beers, utilizing local suppliers, whether that’s buffalo burgers, or vegetables from the farm in Posen. It’s important to me that we make this a community project.”
A consultant was at the site providing advice on the best use of the space. After that, he will hire an engineering firm to develop blueprints and a budget.
Work on the outside will start late in the summer. He said some of the bricks and mortar need to be tucked, while some need to be replaced.
“We can button it up and have the winter to work inside,” said McLennan.
The current porthole windows on the Third Street side will be replaced with sidewalk to ceiling windows.
McLennan also purchased the adjoining lot to the south and plans on establishing an area for outdoor dining.
“One of the last people that was looking at doing something here, they were going to put in a barbecue/restaurant,” he said. “They added walls. It’s not finished, there is no roof on it. So, we may close that. I want extra space because one of the things that I do have plans for Rogers City is I want people to get off of their cell phones and social media. We will have live-entertainment and dance, we’ll talk, laugh and have fun.”
McLennan would like to have it open by next spring.
“It definitely will be a presence next summer and through the festival,” said McLennan. “It’s going to take that long.”