Black Businessmen Expand Muskegon Wine Bar Project to Add Prohibition Lounge

MUSKEGON, MI — A group of entrepreneurs’ plan to open a wine bar in downtown Muskegon is moving forward.

The plan has just been expanded, which delayed the projected opening of the business, to add a second location: a bar and lounge.

Sharing the same building across the street from Heritage Landing, the facility at 1208 8th St. is now becoming the Motu Lakeshore Wine Bar and The Prohibition bar and lounge.

The founding team of Jonathan Jelks, his father Randall Jelks, Jamiel Robinson, Willie Jackson and Alvin Hills IV is preparing to open the new lounge and wine bar. The five men are also part of the team that opened Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge in downtown Grand Rapids.

Originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2021, the expansion of the Muskegon project has pushed back the projected opening to the summer of 2022.

The wine bar will be the only black-owned liquor-licensed establishment in downtown Muskegon, according to Jonathan Jelks.

The building has not been heavily used for decades and was recently purchased and restored by Core Development. It has large windows that overlook Lake Muskegon and a garage door that opens to a patio.

Jelks said the front space of the building will encompass the Motu Lakeshore Wine Bar, while the rear of the building will feature the new design addition, a bar and a small event venue.

“There has been no delay,” Jelks said. “Just an expansion of the project, which includes a more complete design, since we have taken the entire building to develop two concepts in one space.”

The wine bar is named after Motu Viget Spirits, a Michigan-made wine and spirits company owned by Jelks, Jackson and Robinson that currently sells in 300 West Michigan stores.

“We wanted to have a direct connection to what we’re doing in the spirits industry,” Jelks said. “And for the wine bar, we felt it was appropriate as we look to expand our spirits portfolio, and as for Prohibition, we wanted a name that was rebellious. We thought that paying homage to a time when alcoholic beverages were banned would be a statement to make while creating some downtown attraction.”

The bar and event space’s founding entrepreneurs include Jonathan Jelks, Randall Jelks, Jamiel Robinson, Willie Jackson and Alvin Hills. Photo provided to MLive by Jonathan Jelks.jonathan jelks

Jelks said he and his team were “very inspired” by what the project will add to the city.

“Muskegon is a salt-of-the-earth community,” Jelks said. “I love the area. Its beautiful. And we saw an opportunity to be part of the transformation that is happening downtown.”

Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson previously told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle that the project is a “connecting piece” between downtown and the waterfront. Peterson also said it also reflects one of the city’s key efforts to attract minority business owners and developers to Muskegon so that “downtown reflects everyone.”

Motu’s schedule is fixed from Monday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to midnight. Prohibition hours are set from 4 pm to 2 am every day.

For updates as opening nears, head over to Motu Lakeshore Wine Bar’s Facebook page.

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