Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

It’s been a dream for Dana Hatt and her sisters for years to own a bar. About a month ago that dream came true. Dana and her husband, Mark, purchased the Hotel Tavern in Springport. The Tavern is about 11 miles south of Eaton Rapids in the heart of downtown Springport. 

“Who wouldn’t want to own a bar?” said Dana, with excitement in her voice. “Owning it has lived up to my expectations — and so much more!”

The Hotel Tavern building has been here since the early days of Springport. The town was known as Oyers Corners up until 1882 when it became Springport. At one time the hotel operated as a stagecoach stop, other times as a brothel, and also as The Hotel Oyer — named after one of the town’s founders. Some of the furnishings in the bar are original to the building, including the walk-in refrigerator with a wooden door, the bar itself, and a large wooden display case. The building is believed to have been built around 1886 and remained as a hotel up until the 1950s. The upstairs, which was the Hotel part of the building, has not been restored yet, but the Hatts are hoping to do so someday.

The Hatts admit that they have no experience in owning or running a bar. Dana has managed an apartment complex for a fraternity, and Mark has been with sales at Team One Chevrolet for 25 years. But lack of bar experience has proved to be no problem for the Hatts, as they retained all the former staff, including the previous owner, Pam, who owned the Hotel Tavern for 22 years. 

“Customer service is our number one focus, and we don’t need bar experience for that,” Dana said.

The Hatts aren’t planning any major changes for the tavern; “It’s a farming community and they’re used to meat and potatoes, so we are going to stick with that,” Dana said. 

They have a new menu, but it’s just newly printed — the same menu offerings are listed.

They’re hoping that their venture into running a business will inspire others to open a business, and they have already talked to another possible new business for Springport.

The long hours it takes to run a bar, however, are hard with long days being required for both. Married 22 years, Mark laughingly said, “She still likes me. If we didn’t like each other this would be the wrong business to be in.”

Vic Pennell, Springport Village Councilman, loves their food. 

“They have awesome food and the new owners seem like good people. I don’t do bars anymore so all I can vouch for is the food. They have dinner specials every day. Taco Tuesday and the $5 half pound burger on Thursday are my favorite. And their special Hotel Pizza is the best. It probably weighs ten pounds! We are a small community so all three of our eating establishments are huge assets. If we lost any one of the three our community would be at a loss.”

Penny Fast, a weekly customer from Eaton Rapids Township, said “The staff and owners are great people; they are very prompt in getting your food to you quickly. The menu is large, and kid friendly. The best thing on the menu is their Friday night fish fry; to me it’s the best fish fry out there! They are also known for their pizza.”

Visit Hotel Tavern at 119 W. Main Street, in Springport. Call (517) 857-2720 for more information.