Brandon Montemayor traveled south and went kitty-corner across the Midwest before coming back with a concept for a new country bar in Mid-Michigan.
opened just after Memorial Day, bringing a "'lil' country, a lil' rock and a lotta fun" to downtown Lansing. Modeled after popular venues in cities like Columbus, Nashville and Indianapolis, Duke's immerses patrons in a country roadhouse experience, starting with a hand-painted mural of the Dukes of Hazzard and John Wayne by Detroit artist Jeremy Harvey.
"There are tons of Top 40 and dance clubs but nothing for the country crowd downtown," says Montemayor, Duke's general manager. "We just wanted to broaden the demographic of things available to people."
Montemayor and owner Doug Johns Jr. completely transformed the previous Harem Urban Lounge at 414 E. Michigan Ave. to accommodate a dance floor, darts, full-size pool tables, a high definition big screen playing music videos, and a DJ who builds his playlist on requests via Twitter. A live band will perform country rock most every Friday night.
Duke's features an eight-item food menu with a tex-mex and southwestern flair, as well as 15 signature drinks. Among the top thirst quenchers is the Bushwacker—a blended frozen drink of rum, coconut and amaretto, served in a hurricane glass and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. The full-service bar also decants the largest draft cider selection in the area.
Montemayor was born and raised in Lansing. He says the city is primed for a nightclub like Duke's that appeals to people like him who are great fans of today's country music.
"The thing I like about the music is it's so broad now," he says. "It used to mostly be people singing about losing their wife or their dog. Now, the messages they deliver are so much broader, and there's more of blend to the sound with pop and rock."
Duke's is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., with free line-dancing lessons offered from 7:30-9 p.m. on Thursday nights. The bar accommodates 265 people, and employs eight bartenders and four servers.
Source: Brandon Montemayor, General Manager, Duke's Salon
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
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