PJ’s Lager House owner says he has deal to sell Corktown bar

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

PJ’s Lager House in Corktown could soon have a new owner.

Paul "PJ" Ryder, owner of the live music bar and restaurant at 1254 Michigan Ave., said Tuesday he has a purchaser under contract for the building. The buyer is Alex Riley, owner of the building next door that houses James Oliver Coffee Co.

“Alex has shown real interest in the property for a long time…” Ryder said of the deal, first reported by the Metro Times. “He's made a couple of different offers and I’ve turned down over time. He came back with an offer and he accepted my counter and I said, ‘Well, I'm not going turn it down.'”

PJ's Lager House, in Detroit, November 16, 2020.  Because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the state, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday put another hold on indoor dining at bars and restaurants, and also ordered movie theaters, casinos and bowling alleys to close Wednesday through December 8.

Ryder, 68, put PJ’s Lager House up for sale for $2.2 million in 2019. He declined to comment on the purchase price, but said it was close to his asking price. 

He said he expects the sale to close in late September.

Riley declined to comment Tuesday.

Ryder said that although he can’t speak for Riley, he has talked with him about his plans for the business.

“He plans on running PJ’s the same as it's been run for awhile,” Ryder said. “He's asked the booking agent to book bands and shows. He’s given me no indication that he wants to radically change what PJ’s is. The only thing I think is he wants to make it bigger and better.”

Ryder said he has mixed feeling about the sale.

“When the offer came, I stepped back and took a hard look and said ‘This is all you've ever asked for and you've got it and you're getting older and think about your future,’” he said. “And so I took it. My wife wouldn't make one comment about anything until I told her what I was going to do. And then she told me that made her very happy. She's ready to spend some time with a retired husband rather than a working husband.”

Ryder is married to former Detroit News photojournalist Donna Terek.

The former record store owner said he was lucky to have purchased the longstanding Irish pub in 2007.

“When I think about the fact that I picked up that property in Corktown for $350,000 a number of years ago when nobody thought Corktown was going to be anything, that people told me I was crazy” he said. “And it turns out that my timing was perfect and I couldn't have done better.”

Ryder said that he has had the pleasure of hosting numerous bands that have gone on to play bigger stages, such as Little Caesars Arena. There are shows booked through the summer.

“I consider myself lucky to kind of live a fantasy of buying a rock and roll bar and producing music every night and having people enjoy the life that we presented for them,” he said. “I'm grateful. That's the best thing I can say. I'm grateful that I'm still alive.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN