Day 73: Pyramid Scheme

Photo by Chad Cramblet.
[box size=”large” border=”full”]Why it’s awesome: A local bar which is based on music, purveying Michigan beers, and hosting an eclectic array of local and national bands.  Not to mention the fact that the interior is beautiful.[/box]Where would 80’s rock and roll be without a little liquor?  What would karaoke be without cheap beer? Music and alcohol have been perfect partners for decades now, but what if a bar was built around music, rather than the other way around?  What if this bar also had custom built light fixtures, a jukebox full of rock music, a plethora of local beers on tap, and a 420-person capacity that is filled to the brim with frequent concerts?  Enough with the hypothetical questions; this bar exists and can be found in good ol’ Grand Rapids, Michigan. The name? Pyramid Scheme.  

Photo by Chad Cramblet.

Pyramid Scheme first opened its doors at the end of this past April by owners, Jeff and Tami Vandenberg. Everyday the bar is open from 4p.m- 2a.m., offering their customers a very well stocked bar, including an assortment of beer, wine, and numerous mixed drinks. Taking a glance at the chalkboard behind the bar full of the beer selection, you’ll notice an abundance of choices from Short’s Brewing Company, based in Bellaire, Michigan. April Basile, the General Manager, says it is “really, just an appreciation for their beer.  It is not a business partnership but more of a place where people can come in Grand Rapids to taste their beer.”  Pyramid Scheme aims to be that place, and it seems that the public is happy with their decision.  Justin Stover, a server and barback, agrees. “As a resident of Grand Rapids and as a person who drinks at its many bars, I know that there are plenty of Short’s enthusiasts in this city.”

Photo by Chad Cramblet

Another interesting thing about the bar is that there is no food served. Don’t fret, however, because Stella’s, a local restaurant featuring vegetarian and regular bar food, delivers free to the door. Just ask your bartender for a menu if you’re hungry.  Or, if you’d rather stop by and grab some grub on the way, they even allow you to bring it to the door without getting the stink eye from the bartenders. “Well when you don’t have a kitchen, there’s not really a conflict of interest when food from another place is brought in,” said Stover.

While the bar area is fantastic, with custom made light fixtures featuring the bar’s logo, a red and blue zigzag pattern that covers the floor, a garage door that opens up during warmer weather, and a fabulous jukebox that stands beside the bar, it truly is the music that reigns supreme at Pyramid Scheme. “Some bars might add a music night after the fact, but Pyramid Scheme has had music since it opened,” said Stover. This fact is made evident by its consistent concert schedule as well as its well-designed stage area. “Even though it’s a smaller venue, the structure and design of it really makes very good use of the space,” said Stover. “For instance, you’ll notice that though the stage isn’t very wide, it’s quite deep. This gives bands more freedom in their setup.”

Photo by Chad Cramblet

Aside from allowing more freedom from the performers, the setup of the venue also provides a great view for the audience.  “You’ll notice that there really isn’t a bad spot in the place,” said Stover.  “No matter where you stand or sit, you have a great view of the band and can hear them well. I’ve been to a lot of venues all over the country and, unfortunately, many of them have had plenty of bad views.”

The bands that perform at Pyramid Scheme are as diverse as their drinks.  This comes from the approach that the staff has used to book concerts. “We are trying to book bands that are touring through Grand Rapids, from Chicago to Detroit, or vice versa,” said Basile. “We love asking people ‘who would you love to see play in Grand Rapids?’” It should also be noted that, while the concerts do cost money, the bar always boasts free admission. Likewise, the drink specials that are happening in the bar are also present in the venue.

With a focus both on promoting good live music and Michigan beers, Pyramid Scheme is sure to create its own niche in the Grand Rapids music and beer scene.  So head on over to sample one of the many Short’s brews on tap, play some games on the “Twilight Zone” pinball machine, and blast some Alice Cooper on the jukebox.  It will definitely be an awesome time! ~Chad Cramblet, Regional Director

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