They sell parts of the old J. Gardella bar to a movie set

On the second floor is a 30 foot long historic bar. Michael Winks confirmed that he sold it to a movie production company to use on a set.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — One of the oldest storefronts along Ionia Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids is officially getting a new life. In addition, part of its history will be used in a national film set.

The 3-story building at 11 Ionia Avenue SW was built in 1890. In 1996, it became J. Gardella’s Tavern for nearly 24 years. J. Gardella’s was one of the first restaurants to open after the Van Andel Arena, which was directly behind it.

In 2020, the restaurant closed. In December 2021, the building was sold for $1.1 million to MJW Real Estate Holdings, owned by Michael Winks.

The building has been vacant since it was sold, but Winks confirmed to 13 ON YOUR SIDE on Friday that it has partnered with other operators to convert the 3-story building into a bar/restaurant concept they plan to call “Scholar.”

“It’s going to have an American/French flavor and it’s going to be a little higher,” Winks said. “High quality food, good energy and a lively atmosphere.”

Winks said he’s not ready to announce who he’s partnered with yet, but said they are “experienced and local here in town.”

“We’re working to finalize the architectural plans in the city permitting process and then we’ll start remodeling all three floors,” Winks said. “So it will have a new look, but we are honoring the historic character of the building.”

“We’re excited to put a new concept in here and keep it going, so to speak.”

On the second floor of the building is a 30-foot-long historic bar, and Winks said he imagines it has been there since the 1930s or 1940s. Winks confirmed that he sold the large bar to a production company that sources say 13 ON YOUR SIDE will be used on the set of a major movie.

Filming will not take place in Grand Rapids, rather the company came to Grand Rapids and spent days carefully disassembling the bar and loading it onto a moving truck to take it back to their set.

“It was a little too big for what we’re doing,” Winks said. “But we will rebuild a second bar, so there will actually be a bar located on all three levels.”

“We hope to open in the early part of next year and are excited to offer this to the community,” he added.

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