Opening soon: Take a sneak peek at Hazel Park’s new tiki bar and BBQ joint

The liquor license for Hazel Park’s newest bar could arrive any day now — of course, it might take longer, as these things go. It’s a waiting game where sometimes you have to just grin and bear it. But the owners of Eastern Palace Club are using this time to put the finishing touches on their Key West-themed tiki bar, a complete transformation of the former private social club of the same name. From the custom-built cabanas to the bamboo walls, a lot of work has been put in to bring Key West to Hazel Park. Now they wait.

Eastern Palace Club and Smoked Lotus BBQ are located at 21509 John R Rd. in Hazel Park.As the temperatures drop and the fall season truly takes hold here in Michigan, a Key West-themed tiki bar opening in the cold weather months should provide a welcome oasis to those seeking a warm weather vacation, if only for a few hours at a time.

“Eastern Palace Club is famous for just being this big brick building. And so instead of having tons of windows all over the place, we've taken advantage of how the place is set up. We built little cabanas and the bar is completely remodeled and stylized. We've got thatch roofing and bamboo everywhere, and all sorts of artifacts from Key West,” says Mike Pierce, who co-owns the bar with Dustin Leslie and Adam O’Connor. “As soon as you walk into the place, it feels like you're not at Eight-and-a-half Mile and John R in Hazel Park anymore. You're definitely transported somewhere different, somewhere special.”

The cabanas at Eastern Palace Club.
The original Eastern Palace Club in Hazel Park was a private social club that closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pierce, Leslie, and O’Connor were connected with the building’s owner, and their concept for a new Eastern Palace Club was put into motion. They liked the name and it stuck.

A touch of Key West in Hazel Park.Passing by, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that the new Eastern Palace Club has replaced the old private social club, save for a Key West flag flying in the parking lot and a patio being built. But the co-owners liked the original exterior signage, and they’re keeping that, too — with the original owner’s blessing, to be noted. What is more readily apparent are the hand painted signs and barbecue pit installed along the north-facing wall. Those belong to Smoked Lotus BBQ, a second business within the Eastern Palace complex.

James Sikorsky co-owns Smoked Lotus BBQ, a pit-smoked barbecue joint that is utilizing the old Eastern Palace kitchen to offer food to go. A service window within the tiki bar will also allow customers to order food inside. Like the Eastern Palace Club, Sikorsky is waiting on some final permits to be approved before opening. They’d like to dovetail their openings together, but that can’t be guaranteed just yet. The menu includes BBQ rice bowls, broasted chicken, housemade sides, and even some vegetarian options.

Pit-smoked BBQ is coming to Hazel Park.
“It’s a nice little symbiotic relationship,” Sikorsky says. “We don't really want to do anything as far as liquor is concerned. And the Eastern Palace guys don’t want to do anything with food. So it's kind of a perfect union.”

Both Pierce and Sikorsky are high on Hazel Park and its future. While John R north of 9 Mile has popular bars and restaurants like Mabel Gray, FRAMEbar, and Doug’s Delight, the southern stretch of John R is a little quieter. But perhaps not for long. Within just a few blocks, BDT Smoke Shop is building a cannabis consumption lounge, Shredderz food truck is converting the old Dairy Park into a permanent Shredderz location, and there’s Dee’s Quick Bites, which recently celebrated its grand opening. There’s even whispers of a social district forming, where customers can grab alcohol to go and enjoy it on designated city streets and common areas.

“This is gonna be a real nice area once everything's done,” Sikorsky says. “You know, step one for us is getting Eastern Palace and Smoked Lotus up and going — probably middle to end of October we'll be up and going. And then the rest of it is going to fall into place.”

Eastern Palace Club and Smoked Lotus BBQ are located at 21509 John R Rd. in Hazel Park.
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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.