Amid a pandemic that upended the Hudsonville event center, owner Bill Worst debuted a new venture in September with drinks, food and music. The story and photos caught the attention of readers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Worst, co-owner of The Pinnacle Center, announced his plans for an outdoor restaurant and music venue in September after a long and difficult year of COVID shutdowns. His new venture caught the attention of readers, making it one of Local Spins’ most-read stories of 2020.
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To say the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for banquet and event businesses such as The Pinnacle Center would be a monumental understatement.
Co-owner Bill Worst estimates the usually thriving Hudsonville business had lost more than $1 million in sales and bookings via weddings, parties and events by September, with another $500,000 in projected losses by the year’s end.
But after a long and arduous approval process – and weathering the state’s shutdown of event centers – the ever-resourceful Worst has tailored a silver lining of sorts, creating a new “restaurant” and outdoor live music space.
The Underpass, next to The Pinnacle Center and its restored pond, celebrated its soft opening on Sept. 13, with West Michigan singer-guitarist Grayson Barton performing for a full set of occupied, socially distanced tables on the outdoor deck.
“We have been officially approved as a restaurant,” said Worst, who operated The Underpass on Sundays in the fall, moving operations indoors during inclement weather.
“We have completed our pond restoration and have returned the pond to its original size and depth. As part of the process, we have created a new outdoor space next to the highway (I-196).”
Next year, the restaurant will expand to a scenic grassy area alongside the pond, with performances on a stage at one end of The Underpass, or perhaps even on a float in the middle of the pond.
The Pinnacle Center at 3330 Highland Drive, just off I-196, can seat up to 175 people on its deck and up to 250 people in the new outdoor area. In addition to live music, The Underpass plans to feature music videos for patrons on hand.
“We had considered opening our new outdoor area to the public next summer and run Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends Thursday to Sunday,” he said, noting banquet centers face more restrictive capacity rules than restaurants.
“Because of current (COVID) restrictions on indoor events, we have decided to run as a restaurant.”
Amid a music scene currently depleted by the pandemic, The Underpass shapes up as a unique and picturesque new entry.
On Sept. 20, Grand Rapids’ Lynn & The Moonshine Runners played The Underpass, with a special event taking place the following Sunday: On Sept. 27, The Pinnacle Center staged a drive-in concert starring up-and-coming young blues-rock guitarist Jake Kershaw. That show featuring the Michigan star and his band took place in The Pinnacle Center parking lot.
While The Pinnacle Center so far has been limited to staging a few outdoor weddings during its 20th anniversary year due to the coronavirus, Worst has big plans for 2021 thanks to the new outdoor space and expanded capacity.
“We can seat 1,200 or so on the grass around the pond for future ‘pond concerts’,” he said of the potential for putting bands on a floating stage to entertain Underpass patrons.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Underpass at The Pinnacle Center
Photos by Anthony Norkus
PHOTO GALLERY: Grayson Barton at The Underpass (Sunday)
Photos by John Sinkevics