When Capone’s Speakeasy & Pizzeria opens at 794 Pine St. in downtown Muskegon next week, owner Jim Noel wants customers to feel as though they’ve taken a step back in time—when those who wanted to sip a cocktail had to slip past the authorities and head to dimly lit spaces filled with whiskey and jazz.
With a tentative opening date of Monday, Nov. 25, Capone’s takes much of its playbook from the Prohibition era, when alcohol was banned in the United States from 1920 through 1933. Think: a room lit by chandeliers, nooks and crannies in which to imbibe, and a dining room filled with dark red booths, wooden and brick walls, and wooden tables.
And, of course, the name itself is a nod to one of the country’s most notorious gangsters, Al Capone, who raked in millions upon millions of dollars through bootlegging, among other illegal activities, during Prohibition, when speakeasies sprang up throughout the country to offer the then-illicit alcohol. (The term “speakeasy” came about because people had to quite literally talk softly in order to avoid being found by the police.)
“There are two ways to go with the speakeasy: the dive and the more elegant type; we went for the more elegant,” said Noel. “We can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
Nestled towards the back of the NorthTown 794 building—which houses , , and 794 Kitchen & Bar—Capone’s won’t have any signage depicting where it is, another ode to its Prohibition roots, Noel said. Its front door will be frosted and will feature a sign that says “Anti-Saloon League, Chicago Branch, Est. 1920.” The Anti-Saloon League was the leading organization that lobbied for prohibition in the United States.
Upon entering Capone’s, patrons will be greeted by an intimate space meant to evoke a time before phone and television screens dominated our world—including a 14-seat wooden bar that will feature a mixologist making “period-correct drinks,” as well as other craft cocktails, dark red booths and wooden tables.
“I had the initial concept for the interior, and Kathi Tyler, a designer in Muskegon, helped make it come to life,” Noel said.
The restaurant will serve both lunch and dinner. In addition to wine and cocktails—think plenty of bourbon and gin-inspired drinks—the venue will focus on Chicago-style pizza, both thin and deep dish. “The Stockyard,” for example, will include shaved Italian beef, sliced Italian sausage, and mild or hot giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables). Other pizzas will included the “Old Chicago” (pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and sausage), “Vinny the Hawaiian” (pineapple, pulled bacon and red onion), and the “Mugshot” (mozzarella, provolone and ricotta), among others.
There will be a variety of other appetizers and entrees as well, from meatballs and butternut squash ravioli to lasagna, salads, aged meats and cheeses, and more.
A Muskegon native who knew the downtown as it was before the expansive indoor mall opened in 1976, Noel—who opened the downtown Topshelf Liquor Bar & Pizza almost exactly five years ago and also owns 794 Kitchen & Bar—said he hopes Capone’s will continue to help build a growing city.
“The breweries inspired me to open downtown,” Noel said of Pigeon Hill and Unruly. “It was scary in the beginning; people thought I was crazy for opening downtown, but it was a great opportunity.”
“I think it was only a matter of time before the resurgence of our downtown was going to happen,” he continued. “We’re seeing a resurgence of downtowns around the country; look at what has happened in Grand Rapids. It’s exciting to be in Muskegon, and we’re excited to welcome everyone.”
To see more photos of the new restaurant, click on the slideshow below.
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Story and photos by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Connect with Anna by emailing or on , and .
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