City approves liquor license as Delft progresses

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission unanimously approved an on-premises class C liquor license this week for the Delft Bistro in downtown Marquette, which owners say is making progress toward opening, but no date has been set.

After a public hearing, the commission approved the license for the the remodeled dinner theater in a 6-0 vote at its regular Monday meeting, with Commissioner Sara Cambensy absent.

Co-owner Jennifer Ray, who with her husband Tom Vear also owns next-door Doncker’s, said the majority of the work on the Delft is finished, though there’s always a punch list.

“We’ve been very careful not to set a date because we know how that goes,” Ray said.

Ray said the movie entertainment factor will be secondary and will evolve as time goes on. It has one large screen and televisions for special events, Ray said.

“Really the focus is to have a great restaurant with great food and ambiance and atmosphere that really kind of appeals to everybody like Doncker’s does,” Ray said.

The Delft received a $481,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in October 2014 and the Marquette Downtown Development Authority also contributed $10,000 to the project. The remaining balance has been covered by the building’s owners.

Renovations to the more than 100-year-old building were most recently estimated to cost about $2 million, Vear has said.

The original MEDC agreement stipulated the project be completed within two years, but that has been extended.

“It’s our understanding that the Marquette Delft project is mostly complete, and they plan to open in the next few weeks,” said MEDC spokeswoman Emily Gerkin Guerrant. “They requested, and received, an extension to their Term of Work until (Feb. 28, 2017). We also understand that they are on target to reach the required 25 jobs within a month. We don’t have any compliance issues or concerns at this time.”

The agreement also stipulates that 25 full-time jobs be created, with more than half of those made available to low- and-moderate-income individuals.

Ray said they’re excited to have former executive chef of The Marq in Chicago Michael Prahl as culinary director, and his wife Alayna Prahl as general manager.

Ray said some staff has been hired and is expected to start training next week, pending inspections and other items.

“We’re just excited,” Ray said. “As soon as we can get open, we will, and it’ll be great food. Michael is a very talented chef, and they’ve both come with a lot of experience, Alayna and Michael. And I think they’ll add a lot to the downtown and to the restaurant.”

The restaurant will seat 180-200 people, with different ambiances for various dining areas, suitable for families or a date night, Ray said.

The property was originally owned by Fred Doncker, who operated a concession stand at the front of the theater, alongside his candy store next door.

The theater was developed into five screens in 1998, and was vacant since 2012 when previous owner Carmike Cinema closed down its operation.

Mayor Pro Tem Tom Baldini said at Monday’s meeting the venue will be a great addition.

“I think we’re all looking forward to the opening,” Baldini said, adding it will turn a vacant building into one that is beneficial to the city.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is