Downtown’s Rub BBQ gears up to become Cykel

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Bye-bye barbecue; hello bicycles.

Downtown’s Rub BBQ and Pub at Grand Circus Park is changing formats this spring, transforming from a sports-friendly pulled pork and ribs joint to Cykel, a bicycle-friendly bar and restaurant with vegetarian options and shareable plates.

The first step in this overhaul was to hire manager Jason Hall, co-founder of Detroit’s Slow Roll bike club. Hall says the plan is to change the decor, menu and name, and debut the new format by March 29, which is the season opener for Slow Roll.

“The vibe is going to change,” says Hall of Cykel, which he says is named after the Danish spelling of cycle. “For years they made it as a sports bar, right across the street from Comerica Park.”

Hall says the new atmosphere will be a “culture bar” that is bicycle-centric with vintage bikes and cycle memorabilia as part of the decor, available bike pumps and bike parking out front. He also hopes to host live music, from hip-hop to indie rock.

“They have so much space in there, it seems silly not to.”

As for the food menu, the slate is being wiped clean.

“We’re getting rid of barbecue completely,” he says, adding that about half of the new menu will be vegetarian-friendly, and they’ll also have bar food and shareable dishes.

The barbecue bar and restaurant opened in 2010 to positive reviews. But a little more than two years later, management laid off half the staff because of the NHL lockout. The lockout lasted nearly three months in 2012-13 and was a major financial hit to eateries, especially bars and restaurants in the Corktown, downtown and riverfront areas. In 2013, a Rub BBQ Pub manager told The Detroit News the establishment lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during the course of the lockout.

Hall says that while he does have some experience running a bar — he was an employee at Saint Andrew’s Hall for more than a decade and still works there occasionally — he’s not been around so long that he’s cynical or jaded.

“I haven’t been in this industry for years and years, a lot of people have and they’re burnt out. I’m coming in with this fresh outlook,” he says. “So lets have some fun changing the city’s landscape.”