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'It's Cheers' – Michael's Pub in Kings Contrivance is Closing

For nearly 25 years the bar has been a fixture of a village center in Columbia. Its last day open is March 22.

Their faces and voices convey the emotion within. The neighborhood bar where they have worked – the neighborhood bar they have loved – is closing.

They look and sound like people who have just lost a family member because, in a way, that's what's about to happen.

Michael's Pub in Kings Contrivance is where longtime manager Billy Hinman has worked since he was a teenager.

It is where longtime customer Don Park once worked, and it is where he met the mother of his four children.

"It's part of me," said Hinman, speaking at a table in the restaurant on Sunday, just two days before its last day in business – Tuesday, March 22.

"It's 'Cheers,' " said Park, referencing the television-show tavern where everybody knew your name and was always glad you came.

Park's comparison isn't that far off.

"The reason why everybody is sad – yes, we're losing our jobs, but it's mainly because we're a family here," said Lissa Clements, a 28-year-old from Columbia who has worked at Michael's since 2007. 

"We're losing a whole bunch of people that we love seeing every day, that we love talking to every day," Clements said. "I can't imagine not walking through these doors. I can't imagine not seeing the people I see all the time."

Michael's has held a corner of the Kings Contrivance Village Center since June 14, 1986, owned the entire time by the same person, Shane Curtis, according to Hinman.

Hinman, a 39-year-old from Columbia, has been there for more than two decades himself. He can point to why the bar is closing – to the moments in the past that led to what is happening in the present.

"This was us," he said, pointing to the the original section of Michael's. "There were people playing darts. There was music over there. There were people having fun. And then we got screwed by the smoking laws. All of a sudden you had to have a separate ventilation system for smoking."

The bar expanded to adjust to the new laws. Its first addition was space that was formerly an adjacent Chinese restaurant, Hinman said. Later, it added what was previously a jewelry store next door.

"I spent $200,000 to comply, and I still haven't recouped that money," Curtis told the Columbia Flier in 2006, about a decade after state law first called for enclosed, separately ventilated smoking areas.

The smokers were regular, reliable customers, Hinman said. And then the law changed again – smoking was no longer allowed inside.

"All the extra space we bought was useless," he said. "Our sales dropped tremendously immediately. That was our niche."

"With the economy and everything else, it just wasn't working anymore," Clements said. "We have a huge space – and not enough people to fill it."

The staff – between 25 and 30 employees, according to Hinman – had seen this day coming.

That doesn't make the situation any easier.

"It's definitely been building up," Hinman said. "We've been worried about it. Times have been tough. Our owner did everything in his power to keep this alive, and so did we. We're too big to be a neighborhood pub."

The staff is trying to run through its food inventory before closing, not wanting anything to go to waste. A "blowout party" is planned for tonight (March 21).

"We're going to make the most of that," Hinman said.

The regular customers have been "chattering" about the bar closing for some time, according to Park.

"Months," Park said. "I'd say, even in the past year or two, there've been little tidbits here or there. Now it's finally hitting home. Now there are people popping out of the woodwork that I've not seen in years. It's nice to see the love and support."

Park, a 42-year-old Clarksville resident, worked at Michael's for four or five years in the '90s and has remained a customer since. It is where he met his girlfriend of 10 years; they have four children together.

"She worked at the hair salon right there," he said, pointing out the window.

Hinman could not pinpoint just one fond memory of his many years at Michael's. "I have 100,000," he said.

"There are so many people who have been here, and so much history in this place," he said. "And now it's gone."

Scott Paton April 05, 2011 at 08:32 PM
(cont'd) I hope all involved realize that Michael's Pub was not a failure. It was subject to internal and external factors that simply brought its lifecycle to an end. The 100-year-old pub is a rare beast. In this quixotic business, a 25-year-old pub is still remarkable. So, to Shane and everyone whoever drew a beer or poured a cocktail, cooked or delivered a meal to the table, or simply cleaned up and turned out the lights at night, thanks for the hospitality and good times these past 25 years. We'll miss you.
Phil Garrett April 08, 2011 at 12:32 PM
So sad to hear this news. I've had some really fun times at Michael's Pub. I moved to Augusta, GA last August and I've told many people about my favorite pub. Now it's gone. The crowd was always friendly. Bill Hinman was an awesome bartender. He was my daughter's first soccer coach. Thanks for the memories, good food and cold beer! It was fun!
wubanga101 April 15, 2011 at 02:35 AM
You're an idiot!
wubanga101 April 15, 2011 at 02:38 AM
You absolutely correct. I can't get over the amount of morons writing on this topic!
vic August 05, 2011 at 11:58 PM
I find it funny that the first person to blame is the bartender.... Obviously,every damner on here owns restaurant/bar and knows a lot about costs... Just so you know: your bar has to make more than your food cost-every day. So every once in a while your" 40 plus regs" should get a free or comped drink... However being unorganized about it is of course pretty bad,but that is the owner's and bar manager's responsibility not the guy serving drinks... If it was so badly run for so long,then it should've closed a long time ago... Also Columbia has changed dramatically in the past 15 years, so for them to expand when they did was actually not stupid, however the ultimate blame lies in Kimco who owns that village center as well as other ones in the area that are rapidly losing business i.e The Wilde Lake Village Center,Normandy etc... I'm sorry if Ihad a20yr old biz paying my bills, i sure wouldn't throw them under the bus overnight.. The same company has been promising to" revitalize" their properties but instead are leaving local biz and restaurants footing all types of repair bills and costs...If you have to point a drunken finger,point it at them and not the folks who took care of you. n away not as frequented

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