Why Kapone’s Sports Tavern suddenly closed this month – Macomb Daily

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A crew from Harper Woods-based Union Moving Company works to empty Kapones Sports Tavern of all equipment and items as the bar has closed for good. (MITCH HOTTS — THE MACOMB DAILY)

On a warm summer day earlier this week, the owner of Kapones Sports Tavern in St. Clair Shores watched as a moving crew loaded her bar’s items into a van and drove off to put them in storage.

A work crew placed various items — bar stools, the liquor stock, stage lights, oversized chairs, some novelty items — in the vehicle as the longtime bar had closed for good a few days earlier.

The closure came with little notice, catching many by surprise, from the city’s mayor to the landlord to most of her customers and even some of the bartenders and wait staff.

So why the sudden shutdown?

“Covid killed us,” owner Khatina Breiss said as she stood in the front doorway looking out to passing traffic.

“We made it through the lockdown and started to get better, but then something else would come up. It put me in debt personally and professionally. Finally, I realized we couldn’t keep it going any longer and made the decision to close.”

Breiss made the decision in late July and announced the closing on Facebook. She held one final “hurrah” where the staff would sell all the remaining food in the kitchen, then turn out the lights.

Dozens of customers and past employees turned out for the farewell and later took to social media to recall the good times. As in many bars, former and current workers spoke of the Kapones crowd becoming a family over the years.

One of those, Morgan Rae, said no matter how many times she left Kapones, Breiss would always welcome her back if she needed some quick cash or “just missed the craziness.”

Kapones Sports Tavern owner Khatina Breiss poses with a novelty red high heel inside of the closed venue. She said the novelty shoe symbolizes her “ladies first” philosophy in the business world. (MITCH HOTTS — THE MACOMB DAILY)

“You gave people second chances, you loved everyone & led with the most badass authority I’ve ever seen in my life,” she wrote on social media, referring to Breiss. “What most don’t know is how much you truly gave back to the community and in charity. The phrase is right when we say it’s not just a bar.”

Other musicians, like powerhouse R&B vocalist Kathleen Murray and trombonist Bugs Beddow, also expressed regret at the closing.

“It’s definitely been a pleasure to DJ so many great events in the past from bike night, country night, drag queen bingo just a few to mention,” wrote disc jockey Lynne Redman.

And radio personality Screamin’ Scott Randall of WRIF-FM (101.1) said he loved the bar, calling it a “great venue for the local music scene.”

“The staff always took care of us,” said Randall, a Roseville resident. “Bartenders were top notch. The vibe was always ready for a good night as balloons always greeted us on the dance floor. Gonna really miss this venue and its staff.”

“Done working for other people,” Khatina Breiss recalls of her start at a bar owner

Located on bustling Harper Avenue between Nine Mile and 10 Mile roads, Kapones carried a motto of “Not just a bar but a destination.”

The 10,000-square-foot space formerly housed bars known as the Painted Turtle and Pepper Bottoms.

Breiss, the daughter of a career military man and a mother in the medical field, at the time was with a Detroit bar known as Al Kapone’s. She thought that would make a good establishment title and it also was the name of a dog she owned.

When she learned of the St. Clair Shores bar’s availability, she chipped in with some partners and bought it on a land contract in 2017.

“I was done working for other people,” Breiss, 51, said. “So I just assumed the existing owner’s debt. I wasn’t scared. This is the service industry. I know what people like. I was ready.”

Kapones Sports Tavern became a high-profile entertainment establishment that drew widespread attention — both negative and positive.

The venue gained accolades for hosting community fundraisers for a variety of organizations, along with parties celebrating birthdays, weddings, funerals and other occasions.

But Kapones received notoriety after it was the site of two deadly confrontations and a nonfatal shooting within a three-year period.

The first incident took place in June of 2018 when a dispute over money between three men ended in one man’s death when he fell to the ground after being punched in the head and struck his head on a patio door. Two men were charged, one was later acquitted and one was sent to jail for his role in the incident.

In 2019, a customer was involved in a bar fight where he attacked another man in what was described as a sucker punch. The victim died a few days later and the defendant went to prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Kapones owner Khatin Breiss poses with friends and staff members during a Christmas fundraiser during the COVID crisis. (MITCH HOTTS — THE MACOMB DAILY)

A year later, in 2020, another incident took place that resulted in a man shooting a bouncer after security escorted him outside for punching a  female bar patron in the neck. The defendant attempted to flee on foot and fired several more shots but was apprehended by a bar patron. He pled no contest to assault with intent to do great bodily harm and was sent to prison.

Operating bills were ‘massive,’ owner says

COVID-19 hit hard for many small businesses like Kapones and made life difficult on other bars and restaurants during its aftermath with lingering short staffing, reduced hours and an uncertain future.

The roller coaster-like environment for Michigan’s bar and restaurant industry endured weeklong “pauses” on indoor service, capacity limitations and other restrictions enforced by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Their action followed weeks of escalating COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association says one in six restaurants didn’t survive the pandemic.

A combination of the pandemic, the struggle to balance the rising costs of food and drink for customers while still paying the bills eventually proved too much for Breiss. She fell behind and the debt hole kept getting bigger.

“The bills were massive,” she said.

A $7,000 light bill and a monthly payroll of $10,000 were some examples.

Another example came from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

According to the LCC, the bar had been fined for three violations in May and June. Checks from Kapones totaling in excess of $5,000 were dishonored by the bank for lack of sufficient funds. A hearing before the LCC is scheduled for September.

Faced with those prospects, Breiss pulled the plug.

She sold or gave away everything during an everything-must-go sale including kitchen equipment, tables, chairs, glassware, patio tables, multiple TVs, a cigarette machine, heavy-duty, shelving units, lights, and sound system. Even leftover hamburger buns were up for grabs.

Having lost her parents and best friend during the past several years, the clientele and employees of Kapones took on a family role for Breiss.

“The people here have been amazing to me,” she said. “I would say I had at least 100 regulars. That’s one of the reasons why we focused on giving back to the community. The community had given me so much.”

On her Facebook page, Breiss pondered finally having her days and nights free after running the business on a seemingly 24/7 basis for the past six years.

“I’m excited to spend some quality time with my family, quality time with good friends,” she wrote.

“Take my dog for a walk, take a road trip to Chicago to plant some flowers, jump on the boat, & watch the sunset & count the stars.”

 

 

 

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