Serial entrepreneur Jamiel Robinson is excited to announce that a new downtown destination will open within the next 40 days (late November). Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge will serve American food infused with Cajun and creole options, pour fine wines and spirits, and host live music within its Ledyard Building location on the corner of Ottawa Avenue and Pearl Street. He and Team Ambiance, which includes Jonathan Jelks and, on day-to-day operations, Lace Jones, plan on catering to a diverse crowd with entertainment options ranging from jazz, blues, and progressive hip-hop, to live DJs, country music, and comedians.
“Ambiance will be another option for live entertainment downtown. We don’t want to focus on one demographic. Our target market is as diverse as the City of Grand Rapids is,” he says. “Through our different entertainment options, Ambiance will be a place for everyone to come for a nice relaxing atmosphere, good wine, really good food and good conversation with colleagues, potential business partners, or when you have family visiting from out of town and you want to show off a nice cool place.”
Robinson sees Ambiance as both a lunch and happy hour destination as well as a metropolitan night spot.
“We have great restaurants, a lot of brew pubs, breweries, and distilleries, but there hasn’t been a real focus on bringing a metropolitan, urban lounge to Grand Rapids,” he says. “We really want to bring to downtown (what we’ve experienced while) traveling to Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and DC—places where you can hear great live music, places you can dance and enjoy cocktails … We want everybody to dance.”
Robinson shares that Ambiance is the first African American-owned lounge with a full kitchen and full liquor license operating downtown for the past 20 years. He believes a lack of access to capital is one reason why so few African American businesses like Ambiance operate there.
“This is a huge undertaking — not an inexpensive venture,” he says. “It’s a capital-intensive project. A lot of what we’re doing is all new construction. It will look 100 percent different than Rags to Riches.”
Robinson is referring to Rags to Riches, the club which previously operated at the address and closed in 2012.
Robinson has long been active in the Grand Rapids business scene. He is the founder and CEO of Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses, and, in May of this year, launched Motu Viget Spirits, a wine and spirits company, with partners Jonathan Jelks and Willie “Willie The Kid” Jackson. No doubt those libations will be on the menu at the new lounge.
“Ambiance will be one of those cool spaces that feel like a big city,” Robinson concludes. “As Grand Rapids is becoming a bigger and bigger city — we just crossed I believe the 200,000-population mark — we want to be able to be a place where talent wants to locate, based on some of those after-hours, after-work amenities.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge