After a 37-year run, Hamtramck’s New Dodge Lounge has new owners.
The bar and music venue is now owned by Happy Life Hospitality, the management team behind the Detroit Shipping Co. and Lansing Shuffle food halls. The team also runs the Livonia Athletic District, a former YMCA that was converted into an indoor sports facility.
Jonathan Hartzell, one of the owners, says the deal closed Thursday. He says they hope to reopen in August after the liquor license transfers and they make some upgrades to the space.
“We love the charm of what’s there,” he tells Metro Times. “You know, we’re going to clean it up a bit, and anything that’s not functional, we’ll bring back to function.”
Hartzell says he envisions a bit of a soccer theme at the bar due to the success of Detroit City FC, the grassroots pro league soccer team that moved into the nearby Keyworth Stadium. That might include adding more TVs to play international soccer matches, as well as installing arcade games. Hartzell says soccer is near and dear to him — he has coached soccer for 35 years.
There’s another personal aspect to the project: Harztell says his great-grandfather lived in Hamtramck after he came to the U.S. about a century ago. “He had a little market and a house there until like 1988,” he says. “And so I kind of always wanted to double back and do something in Hamtramck.”
His great-grandfather, who was Polish, had a daughter who married an Italian man from Detroit. Harztell says he hopes to honor his family’s heritage by featuring Polish and Italian dishes on the menu, which he expects will be low-frills — think hot dogs, sausages, soft serve ice cream, and puff pastries.
The ownership change comes as a local artist and promoter named 1magine has called out New Dodge Lounge’s previous owners in recent weeks for what he alleges to be discrimination against Black performers. In recent months, the bar has held sporadic hours and programming, with a Black booking agent abruptly quitting amid a dispute with an artist over pay, causing previously scheduled events to fall through.
“I think they checked out a bit early, so they weren’t really caring as much anymore about being open whenever,” Hartzell says of the previous ownership, adding, “I can understand why he was upset.”
Harztell says he has spoken with 1magine to get an understanding of the situation.
“I called them up and kind of just said, ‘Hey, just real real quick, so you know, I’m the new owner, and I’d appreciate it if you just targeted your irritation with past owners instead of the building,’” he says. “He was cool. We talked for a while.”
Harztell says the new owners plan to host regular live music at the New Dodge Lounge. To start, he says they’ll likely share talent with the Detroit Shipping Co., and eventually look into partnering with national booking agents.
“We love the live music on the stage,” he says. “So we’re going to be running more consistent programming on that. That’s the biggest thing, is just running consistent programming.”
Hartzell says in the coming weeks the new owners hope to get a handle on how the space functions, as well as the wants of its surrounding community, before making any solid plans.
“It’s got good history, and the community around it’s got good history,” he says. “DCFC has a really nice piece right next to it, and those are good operators. There’s a lot of good operators in the area.”
He adds, “I’m going to clean it up, I’m going to make it consistent, and then bring it back to what everyone remembered — a good time.”
New Dodge Lounge is located at 8850 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck.