MIKE'S PLACE - HISTORY
Mike's Place offers an island of sanity in a region torn apart by conflict. For those wishing to put their differences aside, the bar has always provided a safe and relaxed haven to enjoy live music and good company.
Mike Viggoda, a retired photo-journalist started this tradition in 1993, when he opened a cozy little bar in downtown Jerusalem, where he welcomed all, regardless of religion, politics or ethnicity.
This tiny little pub that many people mistook for a private living room later became a prominent Jerusalem landmark.
From the very beginning, Mike's Place attracted the most eclectic assortment of individuals: from travelers to native Israelis, foreign students to Russian immigrants. Arabs, Jews and Christians all sat together with, journalists, diplomats, soldiers and UN personnel - all sharing the good vibes, good music and great beer. All this in the most disputed and fought-over city in the Middle East.
In the background, unique and unmistakable, the signature of Mike's Place; free, live music - every night.
Among the original regulars, or the irregulars as they became known - was Haifa-born, Jerusalem-raised Assaf Ganzman, who had just returned to Israel from playing the blues and managing nightclubs in Nashville, Tennesse.
In 1995, in what became Mike's Place folklore - Ganzman inherited the bar when Vegoda threw in his bar-towel, tossed him the keys, wished him well and headed back to Canada.
Within months - Mike's Place became one of the best known secrets in Jerusalem, with customers spilling out of the door, the bar so crowded that drinks passed from the bar over people's heads, crowds of people hanging out outside, drinking and partying while passers-by would just plant themselves on the sidewalk and enjoy the live music. It really never stopped being that living room.
By 1999, Mike's Place had become a fixture on the Jerusalem scene and Ganzman decided to expand the business. He brought in his brother Gal, as a business partner, streamlined the business operations and in 30-days acquired, renovated and opened a second Mike's Place in Jerusalem. One of the first bars in Israel to serve Guinness on tap.
The bars got bigger, the bands got better and the regulars became family.
In September 2000, when Israeli-Palestinian relations reached a new low, many businesses were forced to close due to the worsening economic situation. Over the following next two and half years, the violence intensified. For many Israelis this was a time of fear, as places of entertainment were targeted by terrorists.
Despite being hit by the downturn - Mike's Place was one of the few that survived and even expanded. In Jerusalem, Mike's Place relocated to newer, larger premises in the heart of the trendy Russian Compound.
In July 2001, Mike's Place opened in Tel Aviv. Next to the U.S. Embassy on the beach-front promenade, but the bar never abandoned its Jerusalem heritage even amongst the bright neon lights of Israel's biggest city. The friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere still provides a welcome contrast to the trendy and often pretentious local nightlife. The bar by the beach became a place where people could just relax and be themselves. True to its roots, the mix of live blues and rock-and-roll, with no cover charge, was a first for Tel Aviv and Mike's Place quickly became a home for musicians and music lovers.
On 29th April 2003, terrorists attempted to destroy that Mike's Place 'home' and everything it stood for.
The weekly jam-session was in full swing, and as usual the regulars were dancing and getting some air on the sidewalk outside. At 12:45am, a homicide bomber approached Mike's Place and blew himself up at the entrance to the bar - killing three and wounding over 50. Long-time friend and regular, security guard Avi Tabib blocked the bomber, preventing him from entering the bar, and without doubt prevented a far greater tragedy.
Dominique Hass, 29, Ran Baron, 23, and Yanai Weiss, 46 were murdered in the attack.
The pain was felt across time zones, continents and generations of people who had visited, experienced and felt at home at the strange little bars in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
People from all over the world; people who had only ever passed through Israel and stopped in for a visit, joined the chorus of support, from the Mike's Place family worldwide. All did what they could for the wounded and their families.
In the days following the attack, there were over 80,000 hits on the Mike's Place website, hundreds of messages and calls of support, some from friends but many from strangers, expressing sympathy and solidarity with the Mike's Place family.
And that solidarity could be seen on the ground. Exactly seven days after the attack, hundreds of people, including foreign and local dignitaries, attended a remembrance service held at Mike's Place. That ceremony, which fell poignantly at the end of Israel's National Remembrance Day, and the beginning of Israel's Independence Day marked the reopening of Mike's Place after just one week.
It also expressed a desire to carry on - and show that terrorism would not prevail, and that the Mike's Place spirit would live on. When the sun went down that day, the nation dried its tears of sorrow and began to celebrate independence. That is the Israeli way, to grieve, and then bounce back again.
To continue the legacy of the family members that were lost, the Life after Terror Fund was established to assist and aid the wounded and their families. Concerts are planned in London, New York and Tel Aviv to raise money for the fund, and to celebrate the lives of those who were murdered.
One memorial message left at the scene of the attack put it simply:
"The Mike's Place spirit was never constrained by mere walls,
it resides in the people who it touched, and became part of its family forever."
The outpouring of love and support after the reopening brought on a first expansion in the Tel Aviv location, more than doubling the size and raising the quality. The expansion brought with it a business partnership between the Ganzman brothers and “Downtown Dave”. The opening of “Reeper Ltd.” and the first business to work under the Mike's Place trade mark owned by “Sobo Ltd.”.
Mike's Place added on to the great tradition of good clean night life fun and nightly live music the broadcast of local and international sports on a various selection of screens via cable and satellite.
Since the addition of sports to the Mike's Place theme it has proven to be one of the largest crowd drawers we have. Foot Ball, Rugby, Basket Ball, NFL, NBA, and Tennis are just some of the sports we show.
To make sure Mike's Place is the leading venue in this arena we sponsor the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Rugby teams, an IBL Base Ball team and an IFL Foot Ball team. On top of that we work closely with team fan clubs getting them to come watch the games at Mike's Place.
When international sports games come to town is the real time for Mike's Place to shine above the competition with its international flavor and reputation. Irish, Scottish, and English foot ball fans came following there teams and immediately set up home base at Mike's Place. This led to wide news coverage in Europe and Israel and helped establish Mike's Place as the leading sports venue in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well.
We At Mike's Place are constantly looking for ways to make you feel more at home. We have invested in and built a big back home style anglo food menu with a top notch chef, running the show. From Delicious Mexican food to Grilled steak and Pasta dishes we got it all. Keeping our kitchen Mike's Place style has not been easy but quality materials, fair pricing, great service and memories of home have helped turn our kitchen into a great one. Please visit our menu page to see what we offer.
In light of growing pressure for compliance with the green agenda we believe every industry should respond with more eco-friendly technologies and higher awareness. We at Mike’s Place believe this is an excellent opportunity to investigate and understand the implications of “the triple bottom line”: economic viability; social responsibility and environmental impact.
Thanks for reading our History, so much has happened over the years but I hope this gave you a taste of Mike's Place.
See ya soon at…………..Mike's Place.