At long last, the property that had been left empty at the corner of Packard and State St. in Ann Arbor since the closing of Artisan Bistro has been filled by a bar. Packard Pub has been open since March 26th, and sells itself as a sports bar, with a slight focus on local (state of Michigan) microbrews.
Packard Pub sells itself as a sports bar, and with several big-screen TVs littering the dining room, it will always be possible to catch the game. The waitstaff, dressed as referees, fits the theme as well. I’ve watched a few sporting events there, including NCAA basketball and hockey tournament games, and it does have the feel of a sports bar during the day and early evening.
However, in my experiences, Packard Pub is still facing something of an identity crisis. When the lights go down at night, a DJ booth has popped up in a corner more often than not. The management needs to decide whether they want their restaurant to be a sports bar or a nightclub. They’re obviously aiming for the former, and need to forget about the latter. With large tables that can’t be moved out of the way to make space for a dancefloor (and the pseudo-club niche already filled in town by a number of other bars), Packard Pub needs to cast its lot as a sports bar, and nothing else.
Food and Drink
The food at Packard Pub is supposed to be their pride and joy (“What separates me is the food” owner Kyle Miller told the Michigan Daily in March), but from what I’ve had, it’s standard bar food. Solid, but unspectacular, and not the feature to make one’s name upon. The prices for food are about in line with other restaurants in the area, perhaps a little on the expensive side for standard bar fare.
As drinks go, Packard Pub plans to have a number of Michigan microbrews on tap, but for the first couple weeks, only a few were available alongside the more mainstream offerings from SAB MillerCoors and InBev. This is most likely something that will be adjusted once the restaurant settles into its groove a bit more. The prices are about standard, however there is a distinct lack of quality specials, something that every other bar in town has. Again, that may be fixed once Packard Pub has its feet under it a bit more.
As I’ve noted a number of times in the above, Packard Pub has the opportunity to become a staple of Ann Arbor nightlife for students. However, it still has a ways to go. Some improvements to atmosphere, selection, and pricing can go a long way to ensuring a successful business venture. Once the luster of a new bar in town wears off (and the students stop coming in such full force), hopefully Packard Pub will make the adjustments necessary to set it apart from other places in town.
It’s far from a finished product in other ways as well, with a downstairs seating area that has yet to open. That area will increase seating significantly, though I’m not sure if the television situation in the lower level will fit with the sports bar ideal. Still, just over a month into its existence, it’s easy to see that Packard Pub can become a worthwhile addition to the Ann Arbor community.
As of now, I’d give Packard Pub an overall grade of C, close to a C-plus. However, there is plenty of potential for it to improve significantly once it settles into its place in the Ann Arbor bar scene. It has potential (as a sports bar) to reach a solid grade of A-minus.