Council Hawes Jr. and The Pacific Club
In 1946, after returning from military service in World War II, Council Hawes Jr. (1910-1982) managed The Pacific Club (aka The Pacific Inn), a restaurant, bar, entertainment venue, and residence located at 504 Riverview Drive. Set up as a private nonprofit corporation, governed by board members, but managed by the salaried ex-marine, Kalamazoo’s most popular members-only night club hosted some of the biggest names in jazz and rhythm and blues, and it did so surprisingly, with an integrated clientele. What makes The Pacific Club’s story so unique for mid-century Kalamazoo life, was that its manager drafted an eligibility pledge that mandated members “to promote integrity and good faith, the application of just and equitable principles between Americans of different racial stock and creeds, and thereby prevent controversies in the community.” Hawes’ vision for an upscale, racially integrated entertainment venue began during his time in the service, when he came to the conclusion that blacks and whites would be able to harmoniously drink, dine and enjoy live music without conflict. During his time serving in the South Pacific theater, he had amassed over $20,000 as a result of shooting craps. Upon the conclusion of the war, Hawes’ robust savings, entrepreneurial acumen, South Pacific theme, and idealistic dream were put to the test near the intersection of Riverview Drive and East Michigan Avenue.
Who Was Council Hawes Jr.?
Hawes hailed from the St. Petersburg area of Florida, and like many blacks dreaming of access to better opportunities that were off limits in the Jim Crow south, Hawes Jr. joined the millions of blacks who migrated north, hoping to find work and less racial prejudice. While in New York, Hawes’ brother found a job in Kalamazoo. So, in 1939, Hawes landed in southwest Michigan, where he bounced around from job to job, including work as a butler. He took jobs in Battle Creek, and then in Detroit, mostly in dry cleaning establishments. At one point, he drove buses in Detroit. As the second world war raged, the government draft board came calling, and the 33 year-old found himself a “jughead” in the segregated Marine Corps. It was during his time in the service as a sergeant assigned to galleys and mess halls that Hawes developed an awareness of his leadership potential and capacity to function as a liaison between black and white soldiers, often resolving conflicts.
Back in Kalamazoo after the war ended, Hawes sought to be his own boss, and considered opening up several different ventures before settling on the concept of a private, racially integrated night club that would serve liquor. Because Kalamazoo was a “dry” city at the time, liquor could only be sold in private clubs. Hawes knew that state law allowed for liquor to be purchased and consumed in private clubs, and so he used the bridge club that he and his wife belonged to as the foundation for The Pacific Club’s legal classification. Nonprofit organizations were also expected to have a charitable purpose, and so he included a rider that provided for club profits to be used to help children attend summer camps. According to Hawes, he spent $40,000 in legal fees before the license was granted in 1951 after a prolonged battle with the Michigan Liquor Commission. Because he had been the first proprietor to apply for a liquor license and the last to receive one, his suit alleged discrimination.
The Heyday Years
After purchasing the home on Riverview Drive that would function as both residence and restaurant, Hawes and his wife Eliza opened the 63-seat business on September 6, 1946. Eliza’s previous experience working at The Colony Club contributed to the club’s success. Annual membership fees were set at $10. The island motif and influence derived from Hawes’ time spent in the South Pacific during the war. On the occasion of the club’s twentieth anniversary, Hawes booked Kamao’s Royal Polynesian Review, a group which performed ancient and modern Hawaiian dances and a fire ritual. Legendary musicians like Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Junior Walker and the All Stars were booked as part of the club’s entertainment. The sartorial expectation was that men were to wear blazers or suit jackets. Jackets were provided for casually dressed customers who showed up without them.
“People paid to become members of The Pacific Club because that way they had a sense of belonging and were part of it. People found harmony, pleasure and happiness at The Pacific Club.”–Council Hawes Jr., 1974
After two decades of business, Hawes decided it was time to update the building, and so in 1966 a substantial remodeling project took place. During the 1960’s, an increasing number of bars and restaurants were granted liquor licenses as liquor laws became more lax. This provided for a larger market of bars and restaurants to patronize, which ultimately cut into Hawes’ profits. In addition to club activities, The Pacific Club also had a baseball team that participated in city leagues. The club officially closed its doors in May of 1971. In 1982, the building was torn down to make room for a parking lot that houses Indian Trails buses.
Hawes was well known for his chic style, love of horses, big dogs, and large automobiles. After dying in June of 1982, Hawes was buried in Fort Custer National Cemetery. His wife Eliza passed away in 1959.
Article written by Kalamazoo Public Library staff, Ryan Gage, February 2022
Good News, February 2019, p. 1
“The Pacific Club Remembered”
Greater Guide Magazine, February 1974, p. 2
“Remodeling of Pacific Club Near Completion”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 14 September 1966, page 19, column 5
“City’s First “Bottle Club” Under Wrecker’s Ball”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 December 1982, page A3, column 2
Local History Room Files
Subject File: Pacific Club
Name File: Hawes, Council Jr.