By Scott Sullivan
Douglas City Council Monday agreed to lease the Old Root Beer Barrel to Michael White for another year.
The Barrel, closed 40-plus years ago, reopened under White in a rehabbed structure on the southwest corner of Ferry and Center streets last summer to long lines eager to experience old-time favorites like root beer and hot dogs served from within the iconic structure.
White, a 25-year local resident, had previously owned a Saugatuck retail business, then the Sunset Subs eatery in Douglas’ Weathervane Mall from 2000 to 2008.
He obtained needed Allegan County Health Department permits to open the rehabbed Barrel Aug. 1 and invested close to $12,000 in the project.
Council demurred in October when White sought an extended lease, seeking legal counsel on whether the city is required to bid out that lease.
Members Monday approved leasing the Barrel to White for seasonal use between 10 a.m. and dusk, with extended hours possible for special events via pre-arrangement.
White will be assessed a $500 nonrefundable rental fee payable in two installments. He is required to maintain insurance on his premises, empty site trash hourly and conduct the business according to all federal state and local regulations.
He is authorized to use electrical outlets and water located in and around the barrel for his concessions. The permit is good through Dec. 31.
The 17-foot-tall barrel, an on-the-way-to-the-beach concession stand from the 1950s to mid-1970s, was renovated and installed in summer 2016 on the corner it now occupies.
The structure sat dormant and decayed for decades until 2011, when Saugatuck-Douglas History Center members heard it was slated for demolition and bought it for $1.
A Friends of the Barrel group raised funds to save it, cleaned out and dismantled the structure, then Sanded, repaired and refinished its 120 curved redwood staves, plus made new ones.
The refurbished materials were stored in a barn while alternative sites and potential uses were weighed.
Since being placed on the city-owned lot, landscaping has been done around it, lighting and signage installed, plus more.
An interpretive sign northeast of the barrel, facing the cross streets, tells and depicts its history on one side and restoration efforts on the other.
Douglas has added parking on the site. Last summer five picnic tables, a cornhole game, porta-potty and more were also placed there.