OAKLAND -- Crogan's, one of Montclair's favorite watering holes, is being sold to Mike Williams, who has been a manager at the popular bar and eatery since 1999.
The official yellow notice plastered to the window initially struck panic in some patrons until they discovered that Williams was taking ownership of the business he had managed for more than a decade.
"I'm so excited that Mike is taking over." said Donna Brown, a regular customer for 13 years. "He is a top-notch guy. He's made some great, subtle changes."
"There will be no major changes," assured Williams, who said that his former boss took a hands-off approach to running the business, allowing Williams to create his own vision for the establishment.
Crogan's has been a Montclair Village favorite for more than 30 years. Owner Ane Gattis, is the widow of previous longtime owner Bob Gattis, who died suddenly in 2004.
"I love this place," Williams said. "It's like family here from the staff to the guests that come here. It's unique when you find something like this. You stay."
Brown added: "It's got a real neighborhood feel. I've met a lot of people here. It's like an extended family," Crogan's is often compared to Cheers, the bar portrayed in the popular television series of the same name that ran for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993.
"But that's just a bar," Williams said of the comparison. "I want everyone from moms to grandpas to come here."
Crogan's is home to everyone from 20-somethings who grew up in the neighborhood to parents in search of a night out, whether it be a date night or a get-together with friends to family dinners and grandparents visiting with their grandchildren.
"It's like the 'Cheers' of Montclair," said Donn McVeigh, a neighborhood resident, who often comes for happy hour to catch up with his friends.
"There is always someone here that knows what's going on," said David Marchman, a native of the area. It's got a friendly, upbeat atmosphere."
Crogan's suffered a devastating fire in 1999 that caused extensive smoke damage. In addition to dealing with the damage, the restaurant was required to install upgrades for disabled access, which required relocating the front door.
The owners decided to give the restaurant a full makeover, flipping the dining room and the bar, and ended up closing for nine months. Williams donned a hard hat and wielded a jackhammer during this time.
"The remodel marked the change of direction to the place," Williams said. "It was dark before. The openness didn't exist. It changed the tone of the place."
The installation of five televisions in the bar was also new, transforming Crogan's into a sports bar. Photos commemorating local sports history cover the walls of the bar.
"It was just a bar," said Williams, referring to old Crogan's. "People were loyal to the dining room to the end. Montclarions support their restaurants more than anywhere else. People like the local feel."
Williams is a chef by training, obtaining a degree from the California Culinary Academy in 1996.
"I want to make good food for friendly people," Williams said. "I want a person to walk out of here and say, 'That was awesome.' " I just want to do what we do well."