THE Courtyards

First cocktail bar in south Marquette opens

Pictured is the inside of The Courtyards which is meant to have an outdoor patio feel. Old photos of south Marquette line the walls of the first cocktail bar located in the area. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

There are many simple pleasures in life, one being putting your feet up in the backyard after a long day of work with a drink in hand. This moment inspired the idea behind the new cocktail bar The Courtyards, which is the first of its kind located in south Marquette.

“It’s not just the four months a year of good weather, but 12 months a year, so that’s the whole idea behind it,” said Don Durley, executive chef, general manager and owner of The Courtyards. “It’s just meet your friends out back. We’re a neighborhood cocktail bar.”

The business is spacious, adorned with elements of one’s backyard such as patio furniture, a large tree that spans from floor to ceiling, and they serve handcrafted cocktails and over 70 beers. Along the walls are a number of old photos of south Marquette and the bar has a separate raised area that can seat up to 50 called the Somatime Social Room for when one’s home just isn’t big enough to host. “Soma” being another homage to south Marquette, where Durley lives.

The bar has eight tap lines, 40 Michigan craft beers, over 100 different kinds of liquor and 12 handcrafted cocktails, all named after south Marquette landmarks such as Bums Jungle Juice, the South Beach Spritzer and more. Their most popular cocktail so far is the Mount Marquettarita made with Sauza Blue tequila, lime juice, Triple Sec, hot pepper jelly and a chili lime rim.

“Whether you want an ice cold PBR or Bud Light, or maybe a Canadian breakfast stout or one of the many craft beers or high-end mixed cocktails, or just a rum and coke. We incorporate food, flavor and quality in with the beverages, that’s what we do best,” Durley said. “We treat the bar like a kitchen with recipes.”

You may pay a bit more for your cocktail at The Courtyards, but that’s because quality is the No. 1 priority with everything they serve, he added.

Durley, who also owns Lagniappe Cajun Creole Eatery, plans to begin serving food at the bar in the next month or two, but wants the style of food to remain a surprise. While Courtyards does play off of Lagniappe, Durley wants the bar to have its own identity. The options as to what the bar could become are endless, he said.

“The property that he has built here, the business is limitless,” said Chris Durley, bar manager. “There’s really nothing that we can’t do down the road. We like to say, ‘We never say no, we just say not yet.'”

And there are lots of possibilities as to what may be added to The Courtyards over time, the Durleys said. Currently, they’re working on establishing a non-alcoholic end to the bar featuring mocktails, coffee drinks and more.

“For the people who don’t drink for whatever reason that they don’t drink so they can still come out with their friends,” Chris Durley said.

The two hope the new additions they’re planning keep the bar fun for patrons and that over time The Courtyards will become another south Marquette legend like the nearby Cal’s Party Store. And Durley has built the bar to stand the test of time, he said.

The building has been completely renovated since Durley purchased it in 2015 and he’s added parts of the Upper Peninsula to the interior where he could. The bar features repurposed pieces of a metal roof from Gladstone, barn wood from Iron River, the same brick walls Durley has in his own backyard and even the copper top bar from the former J.T.’s Shaft. The bar also has hints of Lagniappe such as a sign and the same coffee the restaurant carries from Louisiana to keep Durley’s love of New Orleans alive at The Courtyards.

These hints of the U.P. and of Don Durley’s life have made building and opening The Courtyards such a meaningful experience to him, he said.

He’s been in the hospitality industry for 46 years, running Lagniappe for 14 and gets to do it all alongside his family. His son Chris is acting as the bar manager and his daughter Nichole Durley-Rust is cooking at Lagniappe as the first female certified executive chef in the U.P. through the American Culinary Federation.

“So to have your family come full circle and follow in your footsteps is pretty amazing no matter what field you’re in, let alone to do it in hospitality,” Durley said. “Doesn’t matter what it is, if you want to be successful, do what you’re passionate about. The details, you can always hire someone to do, but do what you’re passionate about and you’ll be successful.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is photos@miningjournal.net.