Drunks of Antiquity
No, this is not about the likes of Hemmingway or Poe, but rather a tour of old bars in Detroit, where drunks long ago might have gathered.
I must preface this post by saying that I have lived for the last 30 years in Detroit and most of them in the same neighborhood. It is a quiet, residential neighborhood, what is known in Detroit as a “good” neighborhood. It is strictly residential, no corner stores, no parks, and certainly no corner bars. But on the other hand, no boarded-up abandoned houses either.
Back to the tour. It was put on by http://thedetroitbus.com/specialevents/ (more on this later). The first stop was Jacoby’s in downtown Detroit, http://www.jacobysbar.com/. I have been to this bar many times because it’s in the heart of the business district. I suppose once upon a time it might have been a working man’s bar, but lately it’s the hang out for the legal profession downtown. It is old and gemütlich.
The next stop was the Two Way Inn, http://www.2wayinn.com/. This place claims to be the oldest bar in Detroit. It was built in the 1870’s before that area was part of Detroit. It doesn’t look that old on the outside, but its age shows a little on the inside. The staff was very nice, told us ghost stories and about the history, but a bar is about drinking too and I thought their selection was poor: 1 kind of bourbon, nothing on tap, and not much in the way of bottled beer. While there I had a bottle of Zywiec, a Polish beer, then a shot of Crown Royal on the rocks. Eh. Here’s Pete supporting the bar.
Piling on the bus, we drove all the way across town to Nancy Whiskey, http://www.nancywhiskeydetroit.com/home.html, which also claims to be Detroit’s oldest bar of some sort. Or longest held liquor license. Whatever. It was nicer looking on the outside, and by far the nicest looking on the inside too. It sustained fire damage in 2009 which means the inside was beautifully restored and repainted. They had a good selection of everything; I had a shot of Redbreast on the rocks.
Our last stop was a place called Abick’s, https://www.facebook.com/abicks. This place, like the previous two, is a real neighborhood bar, and like the previous two, a corner bar. There was a corner bar a block away from this place, but it was closed for remodeling. Right. Being a neighborhood bar, it was not on any main street and had no sign out front. Truly a hidden gem, but so far off the beaten path, I doubt I’ll ever go back. I had a Maker’s Mark here.
Our tour guide at the front door of Abicks:
What was striking about the Two Way Inn, Nancy Whiskey, and Abicks is that they are located in neighborhoods that are decimated. Two Way Inn was next door to a beautiful circa 1890- 1900 clapboard house that was unlived in and falling apart. Walking from the bus to Abicks, we passed one house that was completely boarded up with the front door (boarded up) ajar and the house next to it was completely open. Nancy Whiskey was located in a marginally better neighborhood, at least there, I saw signs of rehabilitation. Living where I do and driving pretty much the same way to work downtown every day, I don’t see these neighborhoods. It was shocking. I wanted to tell the suburbanites on the bus that all of Detroit is not like this, which is true, but sadly most of it is.
An abandoned house across the street from Abicks:
About the Detroit Bus Company tour. I have a few suggestions. First, print the pick up time on the ticket, not the tour start time (yes, we missed the bus). Next, have a bus with enough seats for all to have a seat. I can’t understand how they can have sufficient liability insurance to be driving drunks all around town, on the expressway even, with people standing. Finally, a microphone for the tour guide would be a good idea; she was hard to hear over the patrons on the bus, who got louder as the tour went on. It was fun but not quite what I expected. I thought there would be more history and less drinking.