Bar hopes its recipe of classic rock and good food spices up Downtown Bay City

Countless academic articles discuss the importance of competing businesses working together while they strive to grow individually.

It’s a philosophy that the management of Retro Rocks, the new bar/restaurant opening in Downtown Bay City this winter, embraces as they prepare to present their unique combination of food and entertainment.

“We’re very optimistic about our prospects of becoming a long-term business here that has a niche in a thriving downtown,” said Retro Rocks manager Tim Vitu. “But we’re here to work with other businesses, not to compete with them.

“The better that we all do, the stronger the downtown.”

The menu at Retro Rocks in Saginaw includes typical tavern fare as well as upscale items alongside craft bars and cocktails.Retro Rocks, located at 708 Saginaw Street in the building formerly occupied by Rattlesnake Rick’s, isn’t new to the area. It first opened in Saginaw’s Old Town business district 10 years ago and its owners have targeted a Bay City location for several years. The owners hope to be up and running by St. Patrick’s Day.

Now that Bay City’s Retro Rocks is a reality, it’s ready to open its doors in a completely refurbished setting that has a close resemblance to its Saginaw location, except that it’s much bigger. The Bay City building, said Vitu, has over 5,000-square feet of space and an overall capacity for 140 people.

It will expand even more next summer when a spacious outdoor patio area opens on the building’s north side.

Like the Saginaw location, Retro Rocks will feature a bar area, restaurant-style seating, and several video screens that project music videos from the 1970s, ’80s, and ‘90s. It makes for an energetic atmosphere that still allows patrons to dine in a relaxed way.

“It’s a simple concept and it works,” said Vitu. “We’re not a sports-themed place, and there’s plenty of those around, and we know how much people love rock and roll.

“What we really offer is a great experience with great food.”

Anyone expecting typical “bar food” at Retro Rocks won’t be disappointed, because its menu includes hamburgers and other tavern staples.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Bay City’s Retro Rocks will offer the same menu as the Saginaw location, and that means dishes such as seared ahi tuna, smoked beef brisket panini, tandoori chicken, pork tenderloin, Argentinian beef, and much more. And it’s all available for a very affordable price.

Vitu said that Dr. Arup Sarkar, one of two Retro Rocks owners, is an avid cook and wanted to offer a variety of foods – many of which he grew up with – and not just the typical fare. Saginaw native Matt McGowan, who had an impressive resume as a chef, was hired at Retro Rocks when it first opened and will bring his talents to Bay City.

“He was a terrific find and we’re lucky to have him,” Vitu said of McGowan. “He’s been a head chef at some pretty cool places. He’ll continue to oversee the kitchen operations in Saginaw, but he’ll be our chef in Bay City.”

Bay City’s Retro Rocks will also have a long list of craft beers and cocktails designed to meet everyone’s tastes.

Vitu said Bay City’s Retro Rocks has been in the works for several years. Serious renovations began this summer, however, and were extensive.

“We stripped it to the walls,” he said.

“Bay City has a great downtown and we want to help bring people to it.”  – Retro Rocks manager Tim Vitu

The building’s indoor-outdoor carpeting was torn out and the existing hardwood flooring refurbished to give it a timeless look. A wall was taken down to open up a back room that hadn’t been in use, while another area was remade to include leather couches and lounge seating.

Meanwhile, in keeping with the bar’s motto of “Eat, Drink, Rock,” the walls feature not only video screens, but also retro posters of iconic rock stars and rock bands. Music videos will play continuously on the various screens.

“It takes you back to a time when MTV actually showed music,” said Vitu, smiling. “People really relate to that and it makes for a fun environment.”

For Vitu, the Retro Rocks “experience” will include more than just quality food and drink.

“We want to create a customer experience that’s second-to-none,” he said. “We want people to remember us for our service and the experience they had here.

“People won’t remember you in a good way if there’s a napkin lying on the floor for a long time, or if your bathrooms aren’t clean.”

Vitu said Retro Rocks will open at 11 a.m. every day of the week. It will stay open until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Meanwhile, Vitu hopes Retro Rocks fits nicely into the goal of a group of businesses joining forces to create a stronger whole and sense of community.

“Bay City has a great downtown and we want to help bring people to it,” Vitu said. “Because of the type of experience we offer, we think we can be another good reason for people to come here.

“The more people we can bring down here, the better it is for all of us.”

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