According to new business entrepreneur and Michigan State University alumni Seth Tompkins, the city of East Lansing needs more hot dogs and beer.
“I was told today that the best thing in the world is a kielbasa and a beer,” Tompkins said.
Whats Up Dawg?, to be located at 301 M.A.C. Avenue, is a new hot dog restaurant which Tompkins and two co-owners are planning to open this coming September.
“There’s not a whole lot of late night options [in East Lansing], so that’s kind of what we’re looking to do,â€ Tompkins said. “It’s because I love the city of East Lansing. I like spending as much time there as I can. Now I have a good reason to be up there as much as I can.”
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Tompkinsâ€™ business plan was approved and granted land use. The most controversial issue of the evening, however, was the debate over whether to approve the business proposal for a Class C liquor license. A Class C liquor license would permit the restaurant to serve wine, liquorÂ and beer. Certain council members were concerned about whether a Class C license would be appropriate for the venue given its location next to St. John’s Student Parish. However Tompkins attributed this concern to a mistake in the application, claiming that he actually requested a tavern license for the proposed restaurant, which would only permit them to serve beer and wine.
“I don’t anticipate many people wanting to consume wine with their sausages,” Tompkins said. “Unless there’s a change in the culture of how people are consuming their hotdogs, then we’ll probably be sticking only to beer.”
The city council eventually voted to grant Whats Up Dawg? with a tavern license, however concerns of community members about the location of the restaurant in relation to the church remained.
Roger Stewart, an East Lansing resident, was one such concerned citizen.
I don’t think that the people of MSU are in need of another place that they can buy alcohol,” Stewart said. “I resent the living hell out of the fact that I’m telling my police department that they have to monitor the noise situations in the city. They have a city to protect, citizens to protect, not to monitor this restaurant.”
The monitoring that Stewart was referring to was of a previously negotiated plan between the owners of Whats Up Dawg?, the East Lansing Police Department and St. Johnâ€™s Student Parish.
The compromise included five main points for the restaurant to meet in order for the church to approve its operation:
- The license will be a tavern license
- The restaurant will only serve beer until midnight
- The restaurant will provide food carry-out after 1 a.m.
- The restaurant will place security cameras on the outside of the building
- The restaurant will provide a security guard on Friday and Saturday nights if the restaurant is busy
Many of the church’s original concerns were based on fears of vandalism by drunken customers.
“We’re always concerned about vandalism and activity that’s in the street on M.A.C. Avenue,” said Keith Tharp, Director of Operations for St. John’s Student Parish. “We felt that was a compromise if we’re provided those types of things.”
Tharp expressed hope that the restaurant would not be seen as a detriment to the neighborhood, but as a place where parishioners could “stop in after mass and get something to eat for lunch.”
Even Tompkins admitted that the restaurant’s hours of operation for Sundays were determined based on the church’s mass hours.
“We decided to stay open so that we could be a place for the parishioners to come afterwards,” Tompkins said. “Father Mark [Inglot] indicated he had an affinity for a certain type of hot dog, so that’s kind of why our Sunday hours are from 11 to 2, to accommodate the church.”