Trending
Most Read
  • Detroit Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

    Coming up on August 16, former Detroit Tigers greats Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt will team up with the Navin Field Grounds Crew and Metro Times‘ own Dave Mesrey to honor legend Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. The festivities, known as the annual “Bird Bash,” will be held at the infamous Nemo’s Bar & Grill, and will benefit The Bird’s favorite charity, the Wertz Warriors, and also the Mark Fidrych Foundation. For more information, check out their website or Facebook page.

    The post Detroit Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • First Little League game at Navin Field today

    Today Navin Field (the Old Tiger Stadium) hosts its first Little League game on a new field made just to host the youngsters! Here’s a photo of the game happening right now, courtesy Tom Derry and Metro Times‘ copy editor extraordinaire, Dave Mesrey: Stop by the site (corner of Michigan and Trumbull) today to watch history in the making!

    The post First Little League game at Navin Field today appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955; tangentgallery.com.

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

Calendar

Calendar

Search thousands of events in our database.

Restaurants

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Nightlife

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

MT on Twitter
MT on Facebook

Print Email

Culture

Last days

A legendary downtown bar and its owners remain entwined until the end

Photo: , License: N/A

Steve and Sophie inside their longtime bar.


There's not a single customer in the bar tonight. Just like most of last night. Just like most nights before that.

Steve Francis, the bar's owner, sits at a table by the wall, huddled inside his wool sweater, with a blanket covering his lap. "Cold," he says, simply. "Costs too much to heat." 

It's Friday night at Steve's Place, one of the oldest, loneliest dive bars in Detroit. It manages to be both legendary and obscure, a place that most people have heard of but not many visit, except those loyal few who check in now and then to see if its elderly proprietors are still improbably in place behind the bar.

"Nobody in here," Steve says, meaning not just tonight but always. "Sometimes there are birthday parties, the bachelor parties once in a while. Occasionally, a few lovers come in here. But now, very bad. No business."

It's dead quiet apart from the little television above the bar and the sounds of the night seeping in from outside — the loud clang when a car drives over the thick metal sheets covering potholes in the street, the clipped words of stray conversations among people passing by, the shouts of a riled homeless man echoing among the tall buildings. 

The dim light in the room comes from small sources — the flickering television, the single light bulb inside a frosted globe hanging from the ceiling, the soft glow behind the old bar's liquor bottles and the strand of colorful, year-round Christmas lights strung along a wall. 

Steve and Sophie, his wife of 50 years, are the bar's only employees. Both are in their 80s, though Steve says he's not even sure how old he is exactly, because he has no birth certificate. The frail couple takes turns working; one naps in the apartment upstairs while the other one works the bar, from a little before the lunch hour to 2 a.m. or later, every single day of the year but Christmas.

The passing blur of pedestrians can be seen though the misty windows all night, but for hours at a time, nobody, nobody at all, opens the door and stops in for a drink. The only customers nowadays are lone barflies, stray sports fans on their way to a game, and those loyal regulars who come for nostalgia, or sentimentality, or because this is one of the last authentic, old-time bars left downtown.

"This is a good place, good drinks, the best place in Detroit to have alcohol," Steve declares, faintly smiling, as though to convey a hint of sarcasm or irony. "It's the best bar in Detroit." 

His solitude is finally interrupted as an elderly man wearing a thick coat and furry hat walks in and sits at the bar. Steve unfolds himself from his seat, shuffles achingly and slowly around the long bar and then behind it, and greets his customer, a longtime regular. The man orders a can of Pabst. Steve inches forward again, one tiny sliding step at a time, to one of the coolers. He grabs the beer, rings up the sale on the ancient metal cash register and works his way back to the customer.

Then it's a long, slow journey back to his seat, where he gets back under his thick blanket and stares blankly forward, toward the jukebox, and the old cigarette machine, and the door that rarely swings open.

 

Years ago, there were plenty of customers. When Steve first bought the bar 40 years ago, it was packed, just as downtown still was. "It was a good location, and the bar made a good profit," he says. "It was a good investment. But times are very tight."

Even a decade ago he'd get spillover from St. Andrew's Hall next door, when bands and their fans would fill the bar at 2 a.m. after a concert ended, and leave their mark by adding to the overlapping bumper stickers for different bands stuck to the cabinet behind the bar. 

But Steve's Place became a leftover in the midst of the new martini lounges and cigar bars and the massive casino nearby. As downtown changed around him, his bar stayed stubbornly the same — eccentric, a throwback in contrast to its brightly lit surroundings. An eerie, Twilight Zone bar tended by a vulnerable elderly couple is not much of a draw these days.

"It was better before they opened the casino," Steve says, as Sophie sits at the end of the bar. She's just come down from upstairs, wearing the kind of loose, flowing housedress favored by old women. "When they open the casino, people went there to gamble and I lose all this money," he continues. "No customers now. Before, when they had the games over here, the hockey games, we had a lot of people over here. Now nobody comes."

"And no hockey now!" Sophie interjects, noting how yet another NHL lockout has subtracted 20,000 hockey fans from the downtown streets a few nights a week. The couple gets by on their Social Security checks and the few dollars they make on their few customers. It's barely enough.

Their bar is a strange relic — mysterious, melancholy and utterly noir, hanging on past its natural life as if by a mere wisp of will. Its ambience is authentic and palpable and couldn't ever be staged or re-created, because this kind of atmosphere has to be built up slowly and naturally over the years, like grease on an old stove or the rings in a tree. 

We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus