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Exploring Life & Business with Mike Dunlop of Mike’s Bar Catering

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Dunlop. 

Hi Mike, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I have been a bartender since my early 20s. I met Sierra in 2014 who was also a bartender in the summer. Sierra and I got married towards the end of 2017. After our wedding, we realized that a team focusing just on the bar could elevate the bar experience. With the help of our friend Andy Kolar, we registered our company as an LLC and decided that using a name works for Mike’s Hard Lemonade and other businesses so we decided on Mike’s Bar Catering. Sierra started our social media pages and we were on our way. We got our first gig from someone I met while I was working at the bar in January 2018. In 2019, we had just under 40 events. It was a slow start but things finally started taking off with a few private parties and weddings. Just as things were getting going for us, Covid hit. Most of our weddings were canceled in 2020 and even some in 2021. Even with cancelations, we completed 81 events in 2021. Currently, our 2022 year is at 119 with more events getting booked on a regular basis. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back, would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As I mentioned in the previous section, Covid shut us down. Then when things slowly started opening up, clients were still wondering if they should get married or have parties. We had lots of cancelations in 2020 and quite a few in 2021. We do still end up having smaller guest counts than anticipated on occasion due to Covid. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Mike’s Bar Catering?
We are a bar catering service that provides bartenders and beverages for small and large parties and events. Working in the industry so long has introduced us to amazing people in the service industry and we have welcomed them to our team. We are able to do multiple events a day because of our outstanding team. Brand-wise, we are proud of the teams we are able to put together and send out to different locations all over Michigan. Our teams are known to help wherever needed to make sure an event goes smoothly; from helping shuck corn to clearing plates to help caterers, we really are willing to do it all. We have served for a 4-person private party to serving over a thousand people at Boyne Thunder. We work with customers to help fit their needs, wants, and budget. We also have an old horse trailer that our friend Skylar turned into a bar trailer that people can rent out. An advantage we have over other bar catering teams is that there are two of us running the business. I do all the shopping and am at as many events as possible so Sierra specializes in running our social media pages, responding to emails, creating invoices, and making worksheets for each event so our teams know what they need and I know what to order. 

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
I think our business will continue to increase. After the Covid shutdown, it seems like people are wanting to be with friends and family more and entertain guests. We also continue to see new wedding venues in northern Michigan which opens up more doors for us. Being a destination that people love helps our business continue to grow. In our industry, we are able to build relationships and continue them. We might bartend at someone’s bachelorette party, then their wedding, and then their baby shower, all within a short time frame. We love repeat customers! 

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