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Former employee sheds light on future of The B.O.B. as venue closes for good a week early

A former employee said they were given no notice of the closure and were notified by an Instagram post and later, by text.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A popular entertainment and restaurant space in downtown Grand Rapids has officially closed for good a week earlier than expected.

The beloved 70,000-square-foot, four-story, red brick building along Monroe Avenue is officially losing its title as 'The B.O.B.'

13 ON YOUR SIDE has uncovered more details about what the future could hold for this historic building. 

In a Monday afternoon Facebook post, The B.O.B. said: 

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to stay closed this week and will not be holding a NYE party. Nothing about these decisions have been easy. We thank you for your understanding and the contributions you have made in making The B.O.B. what it is."

Now both employees and customers alike are asking questions as the business is expected to close its doors permanently in early 2022 amid a pending sale of the building.

A former employee of the B.O.B. reached out to 13 ON YOUR SIDE regarding the situation but wanted to remain anonymous. They said employees were given no notice of the closure and were notified by an Instagram post and then later, by text. They were only told that The B.O.B. building had been sold and they were closing for good. 

In 2020, the Gilmore Collection, which owns the building, announced that both The B.O.B. and GLC Live at 20 Monroe were for sale. 

They said both venues have been purchased, but the buyers have not been made public.

Doug Small, President and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids, is closely involved in downtown development and visitor experience. He said he does not know what the building will become or who bought it, but said he's been told that it will remain in the entertainment capacity.

"I've been assured that it will remain that," Small said, "and my hope is that the B.O.B. 'brand' is somehow woven into whatever the new venue is going to be."

Small also said he's been told that GLC Live at 20 Monroe will remain as the small concert venue that is currently there.

"I've heard it's two separate owners but somehow related," Small added.

On Tuesday afternoon, Amway confirmed to 13 ON YOUR SIDE that they are not the buyers of the B.O.B., despite rumors.

The former employee we spoke to also said rumors among staff were circulating that there are plans to bring a casino to the building. The city of Grand Rapids officials said they have not received any request for permits from the B.O.B., but the city code does allow casinos under "special use" category. The casino concept would be subject to the Planning Commission's approval. 

"While it's going to be a transitional period, we're going to survive that, because there's still plenty for people to do," said Small.

Small added said that no matter who the buyer is, he's confident that they will keep the building intact and keep its historic mark on the city.

"I'd be hugely surprised if it's not another repurpose of this building," he said. "It's got some historic significance, charm, and I think whoever the new owners saw that."

"It's been a part of the history of downtown Grand Rapids and I'm hopeful that going into the future, we'll still have some feel of the B.O.B.," Small added.

Small also went on to say other bars and restaurants around Grand Rapids will likely be lining up to take the BOB's former employees in, so long as they want to stay within the industry.

"I can tell you because we're so in touch with the hospitality industry, they're crying for staff," says Small. "So there are places out there, which makes me feel a little bit better because you hate to see people losing jobs."

Jon Potvin, a local expert on commercial real estate with Colliers West Michigan, echoed that sentiment. 

"Since I've been here, I've seen most developers exhausting all options that they can to reuse and restore the historical landmarks that have been a part of downtown," Potvin said. "Every once in a while, you'll see a brand new building going up, but for the most part, a lot of truly amazing renovations have taken place here in Grand Rapids."

The B.O.B.'s history dates back to 1903, when it opened as a Grocery warehouse called Judson's. It then stood vacant for decades until the Gilmore Collection Purchased it in the mid-1990s. 

The group renovated the building, and in 1997, they reopened it as the 'B.O.B.' which stands for 'Big Old Building' used as an entertainment complex. It was home to several restaurants and bars over the years as well as a venue for ArtPrize.


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