Soda, Hot Dogs & Art Possible Uses Of Historic Douglas Root Beer Barrel
Douglas city officials are hoping that Ox-Bow School of Art and a local food concession entrepreneur can work together to feature art and food at the historic Douglas Root Beer Barrel, which has proven to be a hit among visitors and locals alike.
The prospective projects jive well with city officials’ vision of the 17-foot-high, 10-foot-diameter redwood barrel as being more than a historical and cultural landmark; they see a site that can feature amenities and other attractions.
“I have people asking me all the time, ‘When will you have food there?’,” said Douglas Mayor Linda Anderson during last week’s city council’s meeting.
There has been some interest from food concession entrepreneurs in the past, but none have presented a solid plan until now.
Mick White, who last summer operated a lemonade stand in Douglas’ downtown, is ready to serve root beer floats and hot dogs out of the barrel, Douglas City Zoning Administrator Lisa Imus reported to council.
City officials responded enthusiastically about that prospect, but also supported Ox-Bow’s recent proposal of putting artwork displays inside the barrel.
Ox-Bow representatives say they are immediately ready to put their project on, but they are also aware of the concession proposal and have expressed concern it will cut short their plans.
Likewise, White says he is ready to start Monday.
“It would be great if they found some way they could work together,” said Anderson, echoing the sentiment of colleagues.
To which Imus said she would ask Ox-Bow about having an art display outside the barrel, rather than inside.
Area resident Joseph Cappelletti spoke in support of Ox-Bow, noting, “Ox-Bow has been here 108 years—they are part of the community and they should be included in more things with the city.”
If White and the city can eventually work out a contract, history will repeat itself.
From 1950 to the mid-1970s, tourists on the way to Oval Beach would stop at the barrel for root beer in frosted mugs and hot dogs. After the eatery’s closure, the structure slowly decayed and was covered in brush and trees.
The Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society bought the barrel in 2010, and volunteers (Friends of the Barrel) spent many hours sanding, repairing, varnishing and moving the 125-foot barrel staves in a massive restoration project.
The city took ownership of the barrel in 2016 as planned.
“He (White) is very interested, so interested that he had the Allegan County Health Department out July 16 to do an inspection and received approval for his concept.
“Because he has a Health Department ‘approved’ food cart, he can place the cart in the Barrel and serve from it.
“He also is planning on purchasing a table, several refrigerators as well as microwaves,” noted Imus in a written report.