With the 41-game college football bowl schedule starting Saturday and the National Football League playoffs not far behind, the average sports fan is happy.
But as owner of a new sports bar with 33 TV sets and the capability of showing up to 10 events on separate channels — Ross Downing is even happier.
“I would have rather been open a couple months ago, but I’m glad we’re opening now,” said Downing, 53, co-owner of the Club 24 Sports Bar and Grill set to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday inside the former JJ Jamokes Food & Spirits, 1354 Mertz Road, which is M-24, near Caro.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Downing said. “It looked fun to me. I’m not even a big sports fan; I just like sports bars.”
Downing, of Indianfields Township, said that while JJ Jamokes “was all fine dining — steaks, seafood, some pasta,” Club 24 will serve burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and chicken wings, with 16 brands of beer on tap. “Wings are the big thing,” said Downing, noting he hasn’t determined the final total cost of the renovation project, but said it’s “right around” $200,000.
“Pretty much everything except for the windows is going to be new,” said Rick Crittenden, owner of Wizard Electric of Caro, who has worked to help prepare Club 24 Sports Bar and Grill for its opening.
“Obviously, JJ Jamokes was a nice restaurant, but this is a totally different style of restaurant and I think it’s going to be awesome for the community,” Crittenden said. “I think this is what this community needs — a little variety in Caro — and this is going to provide it.”
JJ Jamokes, a fine-dining establishment, was founded in 1991 by Indianfields Township resident John Sauber. Contractors preparing for the opening of Club 24 have knocked out an interior wall, removed the eatery’s venerable aquarium that was built into a wall behind the JJ Jamokes bar, and removed and replaced parts of the floor.
A highlight of the new-look Club 24 is the horseshoe-shaped bar built by Holsinger Manufacturing Corp. of Kawkawlin, featuring a wooden countertop accented with a band of dark walnut. Above the bar, descending from the ceiling, is a horseshoe-shaped soffit, built by Mike Krzewinski Builders of Caro, which also installed three colors of ceramic tile for a new floor.
“There are going to be TVs on the inside of the soffit (above the bar) and TVs on the outside of the soffit, which is why the soffit is so large,” said Mike Krzewinski, noting he’s pleased with the result of the eatery renovation project.
“I think this is a 100 percent improvement, and people won’t have to drive all the way to Saginaw or to the big city, to go to the sports bars now,” Krzewinski said. “They’re going to find more comfort in being close to home and local.”
Other contractors working on the project included Dale Rieck Masonry of Caro and Newton-Johnson Plumbing & Heating of Vassar. Seven 65-inch TVs — among the 33 TVs inside the business — greet viewers.
“Everything’s new; there’s nothing that’s not new,” Ross Downing said. “There shouldn’t be a spot in here that you can’t see a TV.”
Linda Downing, Ross Downing’s wife and co-owner of Club 24 Sports Bar and Grill, encouraged former customers of JJ Jamokes to pay a visit to the remodeled eatery, which features recessed lights in part of the ceiling, and track lights in other areas.
“Hopefully it’s inviting and warm,” Linda Downing said. “We tried to make it as inviting for all age groups as we possibly could.”
The interior includes a more open look and is all on one level, whereas JJ Jamokes featured stairs leading to the bar area.
The business employs a staff of 23 workers, and features five Thumb Cellular cellphone-charging stations, with each station capable of charging eight phones.
“When we were out in New York City the cellphone-charging stations were all over like that, so I thought it would be neat to have them here,” Ross Downing said.
“If your phone’s going dead and you’re playing fantasy football, and you want to keep track of how many points you have, you go plug your phone in,” Krzewinski said.
The business seats 120 customers and will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
Ross and Linda Downing also own The Oven, a restaurant at 875 S. State St. in Caro. Ross Downing also is part-owner of the Oasis Tavern, 261 N. State St. in Caro.
Ross Downing has worked in the restaurant business for 38 years. He once worked for the late Sam Pistolesi, who owned The Capri restaurant — now The Oven — in Caro.
Crittenden figures the Downings will do a robust business at their sports bar, where workers in the spring will add an outdoor patio for customers. The business features Wi-Fi, Buzztime trivia and games, an ATM and several arcade games.
“Ross is not hiring just a couple bartenders and waitresses,” Crittenden said. “He has plans for this place.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org