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A tough goodbye: Owner of Speak Easy in Detroit Lakes plans to sell restaurant

Michael Mercil, owner of the Speak Easy in Detroit Lakes, Minn., said he will be selling the business. Kaysey Price / Forum News Service

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — After an "amazing" 16-year run, Michael Mercil, owner of the Speak Easy has announced he is looking to sell his restaurant here.

"I just feel I am ready for a new chapter in my life," said Mercil, adding that deciding to sell wasn't easy. "This is my child. It is a very sad decision, and I'm very sad over it."

Mercil brought the Speak Easy to Detroit Lakes in 2002 after working for many years at the Speak Easy his parents operated in Moorhead.

"I started in Moorhead when I was 9 years old bussing tables and washing dishes," recalled Mercil.

Since branching out and starting his own restaurant, Mercil served the Detroit Lakes community by offering banquet facilities, catering, and opening a coffee and ice cream shop, the Bean & Cream, inside the restaurant.

"There's times in the summer when we do over 500 scoops a week," said Mercil. "Everyone loves the old-fashioned, hard ice cream."

The old-fashioned ice cream played right in with the whole ambiance of the place, which, of course, is old-fashioned as well.

"People come here to return to the elegance of it," said Mercil, adding that those customers have really become family and friends.

The bar's patrons regularly fill the building for Friday night karaoke, meat raffles and dinner specials created in their "scratch kitchen."

Mercil said it's going to be difficult to say goodbye to the good old days when an offer comes in on the place, but he's ready for a new chapter.

"You are glued to this business. I am typically here seven days a week, sometimes eight, sometimes 12, sometimes more hours a day to keep it successful. It's harder to do at the age that I'm at now. It consumes you, and you just don't have any kind of life anymore," he said. "I want to start to have a life again."

Mercil said his goal is to sell by April this year. He's looking to move to the Twin Cities after becoming engaged, and he said he may look to get back into the restaurant business once he's moved. For now though, he's sticking around.

"We'll be here as long as we need to be here — it's not going to close tomorrow, obviously," he added. "You know, it's a big change for everybody."

The restaurant has 40 employees, many of whom Mercil said have also become family, so he doesn't want to leave them hanging.

The building and property will be listed but Mercil said he doesn't know if it will remain a Speak Easy or not — he's open to offers.

"We're exploring our options at this point," he said, adding, "This has been a wonderful town, wonderful people. I will miss everyone. It's definitely a hard, hard choice. I thought long and hard about it, but it's time to turn the reins over to somebody else."