By Angelo Parlove
Saline Mayor Brian Marl broached the subject at his latest coffee hour in May, pointing out the new Emagine Theatre in the Commons at Sauk Trail on Michigan Avenue will be a means to reviving a shopping center with many vacant spaces.
“I am really proud we now have an Emagine Theatre. I can admit to you without reservation, it is the nicest movie theater in Washtenaw County,” Marl told a small gathering in the Brecon Room at the Saline District Library May 23, who attended the coffee hour. “I think that will breathe new life in that shopping center, which has had a 70-plus vacancy for an extended, protracted period of time.”
After Emagine opened its doors for business in March, another recreation business is now looking to open right next door to the movie theater this fall – indoor simulated golf.
“It going to be fun, it’s going to be entertaining,” said Jeff Tapp, one of the owners and operators looking to bring an X-Golf location to the Commons at Sauk Trail shopping center in Saline.
“This is a franchise. It’s not something we just thought of overnight, so we have plenty of resources to get us going and keep us going as the store opens,” Tapp told city council during their regular meeting at City Hall June 19.
The new X-Golf will feature five indoor golf simulators, where the patrons – who bring their own clubs – stand about 15 feet from a large HD screen, striking golf balls into it. The screen then automatically simulates where the ball goes. The simulators allow people to play on over 100 different courses from across the world.
“There is going to be some music playing in the background. You’re going to be basically playing golf indoors, but you’re going to feel like you’re playing outdoors,” Tapp added. “It’s a fun type of thing we are looking to bring to Saline.”
In order to open for business in the shopping center, X-Golf needed a special land use from the City of Saline for indoor recreational use. City council held a public hearing on the matter June 19.
“I think this is a great business to associate with Emagine Theater that helps make that an entertainment complex, more of a destination place in town,” Council Member Dean Girbach said. “It’s one of our goals to get that to be a successful shopping center.”
The Saline planning commission first recommended approval of the special land use to council on June 14, and city council then approved the matter 5-1 (Marl was absent) at their June 19 meeting. Only Council Member Janet Dillon voted against the required land use.
“I do have concerns about alcohol being served outside on the patio,” Dillon said, moments before she voted against the special land use. “I think it’s inviting situations.”
Like Emagine Theatre, part of the business plan for the new X-Golf is alcohol. The site will feature a bar, serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks within the building as well as on an outdoor patio area. The business hours will be until 10 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends.
“By no means is this going to be a bar, it’s going to be a golf simulator store. That’s going to derive most of our business,” Tapp said.
Dillon raised concerns over adequate staffing levels to monitor the alcohol consumption, especially with the large numbers of underage people who patronize the movie theater next door. “We know it’s going to have some sort of roping off, but you will have theoretically alcohol that is unattended, and minors in the area,” she said.
Most of the business that will happen at X-Golf is expected during the winter months. The outdoor patio area – which will have television screens – is also a means for the business owners to offset seasonal lows during the summer.
“The business does primarily the bulk of its business in the wintertime. Obviously most golfers in the summertime go outside to golf,” Tapp said. “In the summertime, we don’t anticipate it as being as busy.”
Tapp tried to ease any concerns city council might have about serving alcohol on the patio during those summer months.
“As far as having enough employees to monitor that, I think we should be fine there. We have plenty of employees that will work for us, and we will definitely address that issue,” said Tapp, who is a school teacher in Dearborn. “I am a teacher, so being a teacher myself, I understand your concerns with the youth, so definitely that’s something we need to look into and will.”
X-Golf is currently in the process of obtaining a liquor license through the State of Michigan. Tapp said he expects to receive the license shortly. “It’s been a long process,” he said.