‘It’s a big deal,’ 30 new HopCat bars to open up across Midwest

Posted at 10:42 AM, Sep 02, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Craft beer drinkers and crack fry lovers, rejoice.

Fans of the popular bar and restaurant chain HopCat will soon have plenty more opportunities to get their fix  following the announcement of a $25 million investment deal Wednesday to build 30 new locations across the Midwest.

BarFly Ventures, HopCat's parent company, inked the deal last Friday with a Texas-based lender to finance the new locations. The deal means the Grand Rapids company will be able to double its growth rate and open six new HopCat locations a year for the next five years, according to Chris Knape, vice president of marketing and communications for BarFly.

“It’s a big deal," he said. “It’s going to be a different company when we get done, but the important thing is for us to maintain some of the culture we have here.

"We are committed to Grand Rapids and growing our corporate team here in Grand Rapids.”

Knape said BarFly is in the midst of moving its offices to a larger location in the city's Heartside neighborhood to accommodate the growth. The new space is double the size of its old offices.

“We have our training team here, we have our culinary team, we have our creative and marketing team, HR; all these different functions that we need as a growing company are going to be right here in Grand Rapids," Knape told FOX 17.

The expansion also means good news for local Michigan contractors and builders, like Wolverine Building Group and Greenwood Studio, which will play an integral role in designing and construction the 20 new locations over the next five years, Knape said.

Currently, BarFly has nine restaurants including Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Stella's Lounge and McFadden's  in Grand Rapids, along with six HopCat locations.

The next HopCat is set to open in Lexington, Ky. this fall. That location will feature 140 taps and will have small-batch brewing similar to the original downtown Grand Rapids location which opened back in 2008.

Knape said, despite planning to have dozens more locations, the company does not want the HopCat brand to be perceived as a chain restaurant. He said the company will continue to design and tailor each location specifically to the region where it's located.

“It’s not a knock-off, we’re not trying to be a big chain. We’re trying to make each place feel special," he said. “We want to be the anti-chain chain a little bit."

Each location will showcase craft beers unique to the region. But expansion outside of Michigan also offers an opportunity to make the state's local craft beer available to wider audiences, according to Knape.

“If you look at what we’re doing in Madison, yes we’re focusing a lot on Wisconsin beers but we also have a tremendous showcase for places like Founders and Bells," Knape said. "We’re also sharing this Michigan beer we all know and love but might not be as accessible elsewhere.”

There will also be opportunities for current servers and bartenders working locally at a BarFly restaurant to move up to other markets, he said.

The next six locations should be announced this fall, and Knape said the company is targeting Midwest college towns but has not ruled out building another Michigan location.

Current HopCat locations outside of Grand Rapids include Ann Arbor, Detroit, Indianapolis, East Lansing and the Madison, Wisc. location, which opened in July.