Chris Chelios says family is reason for selling popular downtown Detroit tavern
Detroit — Former Detroit Red Wing star Chris Chelios said family is why he recently sold his popular downtown Detroit tavern.
"I moved," said Chelios, who hung out at Cheli's Chili on Saturday with dozens of others as they said goodbye during the last day of business for the establishment that opened during Super Bowl XL, which Detroit hosted in 2005. "I decided to go back to Chicago to take care of my mom."
Chelios, a Chicago native who won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings during his 26-year career, said he sold the building at 47 East Adams to the Ilitch organization.
"The Ilitches purchased it from me, and they're looking for tenants," Chelios said. "I'm sure whatever this place becomes will still be great."
The All-Star defenseman, who played for the Red Wings from 1999-2009, opened his first Cheli's Chili in Dearborn in 2003. He said he pattered it after his parents' former restaurant/bar in Chicago, near the United Center. The tavern on Michigan Ave. and Oakwood closed in 2013.
The closure of the downtown facility was announced earlier this month on social media.
On Saturday, the bar was packed with a mixture of fans watching the Michigan-Ohio State game, and others like Mike Buikema, who drove to Detroit from Holland, Mich. to attend the high school championship games at Ford Field.
"The group I was with was going to Greektown, but they were too busy, and there were some empty seats here," Buikema said. "This is my first time here — on the last day."
Alicia Smith of Woodhaven, a former employee, said she felt compelled to visit.
"It's the last day; I had to come down and say goodbye," she said. "A lot of my friends still work here."
Although employees of the bar declined to comment, Smith said most of them already have jobs lined up.
"A lot of them already have second jobs, so it won't be too bad," she said.
Chelios said he hopes patrons hold onto fond memories of his tavern.
"Whatever this place becomes, when people come here I hope they'll still think of Cheli's," he said.