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A tough goodbye: Speak Easy owner announces plan to sell business

Michael Mercil, owner of the Speak Easy in Detroit Lakes has announced he will be putting his business up for sale. Kaysey Price / Tribune

After an "amazing" 16-year run in Detroit Lakes, Michael Mercil, owner of the Speak Easy has announced he is looking to sell his restaurant.

"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 ran in Moorhead.

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

Since branching out and starting his own restaurant, Mercil catered to the Detroit Lakes community however he could, offering banquet facilities, catering, and even opening a coffee and ice cream shop, the Bean & Cream, a couple years ago 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 says 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 says his goal is to sell by April this year. He's looking to move to the Twin Cities where his significant other, whom he just got engaged to is living, and he says 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 houses 40 employees, many of whom Mercil says have also become family, so he doesn't want to leave them hanging.

The building and property will be listed with Jack Chivers realty, and Mercil says 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."

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