By Alyssa Girardi
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
When Robert Song opened a sushi restaurant in Okemos four years ago, he immediately knew he would have to open another in East Lansing.
This spring, that plan might be fulfilled.
Song, owner of Maru Sushi & Grill, plans to open an East Lansing location by late March or early April in addition to his Okemos and Grand Rapids locations. The restaurant will be built at 1500 W. Lake Lansing Road.
“There is an East Lansing market, there is an Okemos market,” Song said. “A distance of seven miles made sense to me.”
In fact, there might be more to the story than just serving two markets, according to Okemos manager Steve Margin.
Margin said that instead of hurting the Okemos location, the East Lansing restaurant will reduce crowds and give customers a better experience.
“Our busier nights, Thursday through Saturday, we do have quite a wait,” Margin said. “It gets up to about an hour. We feel it’s not fair to our guests, so we’re thinking if we open the location pretty close by, it will take some of the load off this location and make it easier for guests to come and dine with us on those nights.”
Because the new Maru Sushi & Grill is applying for a liquor license, a representative must appear before the East Lansing City Council and request a special use permit. The process already was unanimously approved by the East Lansing planning commission, and Song will have a public hearing set for Feb. 19.
East Lansing community development analyst Tim Schmitt said a business that wants to open a restaurant in a commercial building needs just a building permit, but to open a restaurant with a liquor license must request one from the city council.
Song said the new location already passed inspection, and he said he isn’t worried about obtaining the liquor license.
“I very much doubt that they would disapprove it,” he said.
As for what East Lansing residents can expect from its new sushi restaurant, both current locations have similar items such as hibachi grill, nigiri sushi, extravagant rolls and happy hour specials, but Margin said each restaurant has minor differences in menus.
“They’ll have their own few little things that make them unique,” he said. “But it will be pretty much the same.”
Rick DeVault, manager of the Grand Rapids. Maru Sushi & Grill, said the restaurants take a nontraditional approach to Japanese food, mixing traditional sushi and new-age rolls.
“It’s basically a Japanese fusion,” DeVault said.