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Lager House lists for $2.2M; owner cites changing Corktown

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PJ Ryder feels it’s time to move on from his struggling bar

Photos by Michelle Gerard

Corktown has changed a great deal since Paul “PJ” Ryder bought the Lager House in 2007 for $350,000.

Fancy restaurants and bars now line Michigan Avenue. Brand new lofts starting at $400,000 are selling fast. Hundreds of new apartment units are being built. And, of course, Ford Motor Company bought and is redeveloping Michigan Central Station.

The changing character of Corktown is one of several reasons Ryder has cited for putting up the local watering hole and live music venue in late June. All those changes have also made the 1914 property, with two residential units on the second floor, more valuable. It’s listed for $2.2 million.

Ryder told the Metro Times that his age (65 years old) and the fact that he’s never taken a paycheck in 12 years were factors. Profits from live music haven’t been the same for the Lager House since other similarly-sized venues like El Club and UFO Factory have opened.

The two units above the bar are rented out as Airbnbs, but with Detroit City Council considering restrictions on short-term rentals, soon that may not be legal. The ordinance would require owners to live in the buildings they rent on platforms like Airbnb.

But Ryder is most dismayed about Corktown’s gentrification—he feels his business doesn’t fit in anymore. In an interview with The Detroit News, he said...

Twelve years ago you couldn’t get a bank to lend you a dime on that building. There were no street lights. There were no banners. Corktown was a cool place to go. You had bars down the street, you want a gun or you want drugs, go to that bar, you can get them tonight. That’s what kind of place Corktown was.

Artists start it. Then the small businesses come in and then it gets so hip that the real estate companies come in and the big companies come in and then the neighborhood has changed again.

He told the Detroit News that he’s already gotten some offers, but has turned them down. In the meantime, he’ll continue to operate the bar as usual.