Beeson Street Bar and Grill closes its doors

Published 8:13 am Thursday, April 4, 2019

DOWAGIAC — A long-time Dowagiac bar and restaurant has shuttered its business.

Beeson Street Bar and Grill, located on Beeson Street in downtown Dowagiac, announced last month that it would be closing. In mid-March, the business posted a farewell message on its Facebook page.

“It’s the end of an era, Beeson Street Bar and Grill is closed,” the message read. “We thank our loyal customers and we thank our staff. It’s time for a new adventure.”

Owner Tom Burling provided few statements about the reason and timing of the bar’s closing, but said the restaurant closed mainly due to a lack of business.

“The reason for that will become more apparent in time,” he said.

He did, however, note the contributions he thought Beeson brought to Dowagiac.

“Over the years, we have donated to many different causes in and around our fair city,” Burling said in a statement to the Dowagiac Daily News. “Beeson was always available to help out when others decided it wasn’t in their best interest. Personally, I feel we went over and above on many instances helping out when others wouldn’t.”

In his statement, Burling did not shy from mentioning criticisms directed at the city of Dowagiac.

“[The city] thinks that all the local businesses have a bottomless checkbook to help fund their utility department because they can’t control their spending,” Burling said. “Dowagiac needs to open [its] eyes, or we will end up being the next Benton Harbor with ‘nice streets’ but nobody to enjoy them. I hate to sound like sour grapes, but honestly, feel I have been pushed to this point.”

The absence of the bar in Dowagiac will be a noticeable loss for the downtown business district, according to program director for the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce Vickie Phillipson.

“Since its expansion, Beeson Street Bar and Grill has been a popular lunch spot downtown,” Phillipson said about the bar’s closing. “While a central business district certainly has an ebb and a flow to it, it’s always difficult to see a long-time business close.  In this case, the loss is twofold. In a small community, when a business closes, it means we are also losing the owner of the business, who has been just as important to us.”

Phillipson expressed admiration for Burling as a business owner and member of the Dowagiac community.

“Tom is a well-respected member of our community,” she said. “As an active Chamber member, he has always been supportive of the work we do, having been a steadfast contributor to such annual events as the Rod and Roll Classic Auto Show and Ice Time Festival.

“Tom has also been an essential member of the Downtown Development Authority’s Design Review Committee, which oversees the DDA’s Facade Incentive Program,” Phillipson continued. “As a contractor, Tom brought great experience to the committee, including cost-cutting savings and pointers, which he shared with property owners, who, like himself, renovated their storefronts. During the early-1990s, Tom was among the first building owners to renovate the exterior of their buildings and also transform the second floors into new residential living spaces.”

Phillipson likened the closing of Beeson to the closing and passing of ownership of other local, longstanding businesses.

“As the ebb and flow of our central business district continues, we are seeing others, like Tom, who are moving into their retirement years, including Dick Judd, who just announced the sale of Judd Lumber;  Sue Kazlauskas, who sold The Marshall Shoppe last fall; and Tom Underwood, who recently put his storefront, which houses Underwood Shoes, on the market,” Phillipson said. “We certainly wish Tom and others like him much success as they start the next chapter of their lives. In the meantime, fortunately, we are welcoming a new generation of both business and property owners to the downtown.”

Burling said he has no plans to open another business.

“At this time we don’t anticipate reopening in the present location for
many reasons.”