Blue Fish awarded Signature Building Grant

MANISTEE — After a rigorous screening process and months of vetting at the state level, Blue Fish Kitchen, LLC. and the City of Manistee have been awarded the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Signature Building Grant for $330,000, making the project at 312 River St. official.

“It was a huge announcement today,” said owner Connie Freiberg, who will be the executive chef at the restaurant. “We had kind of been told that once it gets to the strategic board, all of the behind-the-scenes work has been done and typically the projects get approved. But, until it’s actually approved, you always let your mind play tricks on you.

“Now that I’ve heard it’s official, it’s kind of changed my mindset,” she continued. “I’m ready to go.”

Freiberg said she hopes to close on the property in mid-May and start the renovations soon after. The building has been deteriorating since 2009 and will need weeks of work before the restaurant can be opened.

The laundry list of renovations includes demolition, bringing in new kitchen equipment, exterior improvements, furniture, lighting, a point of sale system and more.

“Our target is to open sometime between the middle of June and the Fourth of July weekend,” Freiberg said. “That’s our window, and most of that is dependent on the liquor license.”

Connie Freiberg and her husband Chuck first started discussing the Signature Building Grant during a visit to Manistee in August, talking with Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority director Travis Alden.

“This grant was definitely required for anything to happen (in that building),” Alden said. “A lot of times, you have to have the stars align for a project like this to happen. We’re fortunate that when we approached the Blue Cow, that they took an interest in Manistee and we were able to all work together to make this happen.”

For now, the Freibergs are starting to form partnerships with local charter fishers for their “cook your catch” program and plan to focus much of the restaurant’s menu on Manistee’s fishing industry.

The grant stipulates a creation of 22 full time equivalent positions. Applications will be handled through the Michigan Works! Manistee Office.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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