GTPulse: Thirsty Fish Grille Opens For Business

The name is old, but the bar is new. Thirsty Fish bar and grill in Traverse City had a successful grand opening over the weekend. The owners might be new to the location, but they're not green when it comes to the bar game.

Thirsty Fish Sports Grille just had a successful grand opening this past Saturday and owners Christina and Rick Thompson and Greg Olson couldn’t be more excited.

“Under the name Thirsty Fish, it’s been here a year, we bought it along with the name. It’s all new ownership, all new staff with three of our staff from before. We’ve kind of revamped the whole mentality of everything in here,” Christina said.

The sports bar offers indoor and outdoor seating that accommodates up to 168 guests, although it won’t be opened at capacity during the pandemic, the large space lends itself well to keeping up with social distancing and offering outdoor entertainment. 

“Inside is supposed to be a sports bar. We want all of the TVs on, we want noise from different cheering and stuff like that but, the outside is almost more like a tiki bar.”

The outdoor bar will have weekly live music from 5:30 to 9:30 with laid-back, loose music for guests to enjoy while sipping their drinks. 

“No DJs, not large bands, not really loud. More like that mellow, dinnertime music. Still fun and upbeat but not loud and obnoxious. We don’t want to upset any neighbors.”

It’s important to Christina to instill some components to the new Thirsty Fish to make it a place where families feel comfortable. She and her husband Greg are no rookies to the bar game. They own Union Street Station together where late-night music and shows are commonplace. Although USS is a staple in Traverse City nightlife, without food or an abundance of space, it’s not the most suitable place for a hungry family to take the kids.

“This is more family-friendly. I’m really hoping that everyone in the family can find something they like on the menu, or on TV or with the music.”

Union Street Station is closed under the current executive order that states restaurants and bars that operate with profit from food sales amounting to less than 70 percent of the business have to shut down. With no kitchen or menu at USS, they’ve been closed since July 30th. The USS closing has put Thirsty Fish to the top of the priority list and has pushed Christina to the forefront of the new business.

“My husband and I are really lucky. I do all the finance and advertising stuff from home, so being here physically is definitely different for me. At Union Street, my husband would be there and also Greg, our manager at Union Street and our partner here. I’m onsite more here because it’s kind of my baby. Union Street is my husband’s baby.”

The menu offers uncontroversial bar fare that is largely made from scratch by a former chef from The Franklin.

“He’s great, he’s really creative. We have maybe 3 items that are frozen, things like fries and onion rings. But otherwise, even our mushrooms, cauliflower, and wings, everything is hand-battered. All of our sauces are handmade in house. There’s nothing from a jar or bottle or anything like that.” 

If you’re hungry and looking for a drink, their happy hour will feature deals on both. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. everyday small plates and drink specials will be available.

“On Sundays from noon to 6, we’ll do loaded bloody marys and mimosas. Other drink specials are $2 well drinks and $2.50 beers, kind of basic, but the food specials are specific. To get people in for football on Monday we’ll have dollar chips and salsa. We’re doing dollar enchiladas and dollar fifty tacos with pulled pork on Tuesdays, things like that.”

Christina, Rick and Greg have pulled off the seemingly impossible with opening a new bar in 2020. They weren’t going to be intimidated or dispirited.

“We could have walked away, there wasn’t a lease in place yet with the business owner. We just saw so much potential in this, even when it was State Street and had went up for sale. We went in and checked it out, we just didn’t know if it was right for us.”

Sometimes, the second time is the charm. With the pandemic putting many bars at a touch and go state, it’s nice to have that outdoor space. The guests will enjoy the fresh air and room to space out, and Greg has enjoyed decorating some of the back patio with his own photography.

 “We’ve got some really cool banners out there. My partner Greg does photography just for fun so those are all of the photos that he took of northern Michigan, then the liquor reps will print them for us if we let them put their logos on it.”

Make sure to take a peek next time you’re enjoying some tunes and cocktails out back at Thirsty Fish. Maybe if you’re lucky they’ll put a little umbrella in your drink.

“We want to be small-town family-friendly, but still be authentic with what we’re doing. There’s just so much potential.”

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Categories: GTPulse