On a recent westerly bicycle ride along the new bike lanes on Michigan Avenue, I couldn’t help notice how vibrant the avenue was. There were dollar stores with constant in and out traffic, active auto parts and repair stores, and fast food outlets serving those in the drive through lanes. There were small independent shops, such as tattoo parlors with lighted neon open signs, antiques dealers, and second-hand stores selling household odds and ends. Like many commercial stretches throughout Detroit, blight and abandonment is evident, but it wasn’t as bad as some sections of this city. One thing I did notice as I rode the new bike lanes of Michigan Avenue were the bars. Not window bars (although there were plenty of those) but bars, as in drinking establishments.
Riding Michigan Avenue from its origin at Woodward Avenue west to the Dearborn City limits, a distance of about five miles, I counted 23 bars. There were all types of watering holes along the way: sports bars near the old Tiger Stadium site; rough-looking corner barrooms housed in vintage brick buildings; some establishments with updated wooden facades and others with clean, bright brick and modern tinted windows. Many of the joints looked bomb-proof with their solid brick, small windowed or windowless walls and steel doors with three or four locks. Looking at these places made me wonder what the clientele is like.
I was surprised that so many of the saloons are clustered in the Corktown community between the Lodge Freeway, west to I-96. In fact, from Woodward Avenue downtown to I-96, I counted twelve taverns, and that is only a 2-mile or so stretch of Michigan! Go figure. West of I-96 they seemed to be more scattered and along some lengthy sections, there were virtually none. Perhaps a few of the abandoned buildings lining the roadway may have housed a few in their earlier life.
At the western end of Michigan Avenue, within a mile or so of the Dearborn city limits, is a whole section of strip clubs, topless joints and gentlemen clubs. A few are painted with eye-catching bright colors and feature plenty of neon signs to hopefully draw in patrons. Quite a contrast to the sports, dive and corner bars I saw along the way.
One of the things I find fascinating while riding across this vast city are the buildings businesses are housed in and the names and tag lines used on their respective signs. The bars of Michigan Avenue are no exception and offer an array of interesting buildings and names.