'Bad roof,' second floor demolished at former Bil-Mar

Becky Vargo • Dec 29, 2017 at 10:00 AM

A decision to remove a “bad roof” led to Thursday’s demolition of part of the former Bil-Mar Restaurant on Harbor Drive.

It was not a roof collapse, as had been rumored.

Construction manager Bill Bolt said that when his crew was tearing apart the inside of the building, they realized there was a problem with the roof. After a meeting with city officials, they determined the best thing to do was remove the roof and build a new one.

“If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right,” Bolt said.

Demolition will continue through next week, Bolt said, and they hope to start pouring footings the following week.

Building a new roof was not in the original plans and this definitely affects the completion schedule, Bolt said.

“We hope to be open by the end of April, first of May,” he said. “It all depends on the weather.”

Once completed, the building will be the same size as the old restaurant, including a second-floor banquet room, but it will be 95 percent new, Bolt said. 

The construction manager said they also plan to put a small kitchen and bathroom by the outside deck. The renovation plans include moving the kitchen and bar, removing part of the ceiling and installing a chandelier, adding an outdoor deck suitable for many types of weather, and opening up the floor plan and the view. Once you walk in the door, you'll be able to see a wide expanse of Lake Michigan shoreline. The upstairs will include a balcony with additional space for banquets.

“There will be more of an elegance to the view,” said Tony Noto, whose family purchased the former Bil-Mar property from longtime owner Howard Meyer in September.

The Noto family, owners of Noto's Old World Italian Dining restaurant in Cascade, say they will reopen the Grand Haven beachfront restaurant in the spring as Noto's at the Bil-Mar. The Notos say they plan to retain all employees, as well as lake perch and prime rib as menu offerings. They'll add some Italian flair and also feature steak, seafood and pasta items.

The Bil-Mar structure was built in 1888 and served as a bathhouse where people could rent wool bathing suits. In the early 1900s, it was a grocery store for Highland Park residents. The upstairs once housed 12 rooms.

Russ Baltz started the restaurant in the 1940s. It was named after his children, Bil and Margo.

Tribune reporter Marie Havenga contributed to this story.


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