Dingman’s owners hope to break ground on new bar by late May

Ted Wendling, Contributing Writer

Photo by Ted Wendling

Bear Lake Township Supervisor Bud Banker said reports that owners Bob and Karren Laurence  intend to rebuild Dingman’s Bar is a huge boost for the township and makes it unnecessary for him to issue a blight order to remove burned debris from the property. Currently, the scorched remains of Dingman’s are all that sits on the site. A fire of yet-undetermined origin claimed the structure during the early morning hours of Jan. 16.


KALKASKA – Three months after a devastating early morning fire burned Dingman’s Bar to the ground, owners Bob and Karren Laurence are hoping to break ground on a new Dingman’s by the end of May.

Same site, but it’ll be a different Dingman’s, said Bob Laurence.

Noting that the former bar was built in 1952 and had multiple roofs, Laurence said the new Dingman’s will be a vast improvement.

“That roof line was horrible,” he said. “It’s going to be a steel building. We’re not going to make it exactly like it was. It’s going to be a whole lot nicer.”

Karen Van Horn, Kalkaska County’s zoning administrator, said the county Planning Commission has scheduled a commercial site plan review for Dingman’s for May 8 to ensure that the new structure meets modern setback requirements and other zoning ordinances that were not in effect in 1952. She said the current setback requirement – 60 feet from the edge of the M-72 right-of-way – is farther from the road than the previous location.

“They know they can’t build in the same footprint,” Van Horn said. “They have to move it back.”

Laurence said the county “is making us do a whole lot, and I hope it’s not going to price us out of the market.”

The owner noted that the settlement he received from his insurer, Nationwide Insurance, wasn’t what he expected but said he hopes to supplement those funds by reviving Dingman’s annual “Blessing of the Jeep, ORV and ATV” fundraiser on the site of the property sometime this summer.

“They screwed us a little bit, like they always do,” he said, referring to the insurance settlement. “The winter we just had, we lost so much money because we’re a huge snowmobile bar.”

Laurence said his insurer based the settlement on bar revenues from 2016 and 2017, which Laurence said were “horrible winters” for snowmobilers.

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