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Spot Lite opened for business on Wednesday.
The organizers of Detroit's annual Movement music festival, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, surprised electronic music fans earlier this month when they announced a pandemic-friendly limited-capacity "Micro Movement" fest. Instead of being held at its typical spot in Hart Plaza during Memorial Day Weekend, this year's ad hoc festival will be a free event focused on local DJs, held across three venues — TV Lounge, the Magic Stick, and a new venue called Spot Lite.
Located at 2905 Beaufait St. in a mostly industrial strip in the Islandview neighborhood on the east side, Spot Lite celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday.
"I'm not sure a lot of entrepreneurs would have walked into this neighborhood and looked at this building, and saw this kind of potential," Duggan said.
The 400-capacity venue (once pandemic restrictions are lifted, that is, expected by July under new orders from Governor Gretchen Whitmer
announced earlier Wednesday) includes a bar/cafe, a performance space, and a small record store — and of course, plenty of art.
The project is an extension of 1xRun, the fine art print shop and gallery formerly based in Eastern Market that is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. The company moved to Beaufait Street in 2017, sharing the complex with the Heidelberg Project artist Tyree Guyton and print and clothing shop SMPLFD.
The Spot Lite space has been in the making ever since. It's owned by Roula David, whose husband Jesse Cory co-owns 1xRun.
"It's my place, but it's our place," David tells Metro Times
. "Just like 1xRun was his business, it's like our business. We're a family."
While 1xRun was able to open in 2018, the Spot Lite side of the building needed a lot of TLC. It had long been used as a storage space, and upon further inspection, the crew realized that a fire had damaged the building at some point and "was just kind of covered up," David says.
"Not only was it empty, it did not have heating, electricity, water, or HVAC," David says. "The roof was actually collapsing in. The rest of the building was actually in really great shape, but this space was destroyed."
Initially, David, a former bartender, says she envisioned the Spot Lite space to be artists' studios, but given the extensive work that needed to be done to the building, it didn't seem economically feasible.
"Really the only revenue model that made sense was something where we sold drinks and coffee, that kind of situation," she says. "And so we started down that process and we were like, 'Well, what about a gallery with a bar?' We know how to do the gallery side. I know how to do the bar side. And so combining the two, we were like, we can find the money for this in that case."
David says the project wound up costing around $550,000, $40,000 of which came from the city's Motor City Match program, but the decor has a raw, no-frills feel. The furniture is sourced from Facebook Marketplace and garage sales, she says, while shelves of vinyl records behind a DJ booth comes from Cory's personal collection. The venue's record store was sourced through items found during road trips throughout the Midwest, and the bar, which has a bold, striped design, was built by a friend (Ryan Doyle), as were the record shelves (Ryan Carmichael and Jason Flack).
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Shelves of vinyl records behind a DJ booth come from 1xRun co-owner Jesse Cory's personal collection.
An outside alley has high-top tables and a partially enclosed space that Cory calls a "bunker" (likely used when the space was a foundry) that will probably be used by smokers during inclement weather.
"I feel like the space is a little different," David says. "Like everyone that kind of touched the space put their own little energy into it. ... It has more, I don't know, soul to it. It's a gallery, with a bar, and a coffee shop, and a music venue, and really a neighborhood hang."
"All the imperfections are as they should be," Jeanine Whitfield, Guyton's wife and Heidelberg Project director, says to David. "That's how we do it in Detroit."
David says when the venue held a soft opening recently, people came from nearby neighborhoods like West Village, Jefferson-Chalmers, and McDougall-Hunt. "They were like, 'We're so excited to have a place that is just open all day that we can work or get a coffee or get a drink,'" David says.
As far as the bar program goes, David says it will be simple and reasonably priced.
"One of the things that we're really focusing on is celebrating the classics," she says. "So you'll be able to get really lovely classic cocktails, but there won't be any fussiness. You'll just get a really good margarita, a really good Manhattan, and a really good mojito, with the freshest ingredients."
The approach will be extended to the music programming too, she says.
"Even the music, we're going to be celebrating classics — jazz, funk, house music, R&B, soul," she says.
David says she has curated a yearlong series with the Arab American Museum called ARAB: A Real Arab Blueprint, that will include a screening of Arabic films at Spot Lite. She also hopes to activate it alongside other local festivals like Jazz Fest and the North American International Auto Show.
The Movement tie-in was a natural fit — 1xRun has curated art installations during the festival for the past few years, and Movement organizers Paxahau have helped curate music for 1xRun's annual Murals in the Market festival in Eastern Market.
"They were actually the first people I walked through this space with, and it was like, if you guys see this, then I can do this, because I need the support of a partner like you," she says.
She adds, "This place is like an extension of our living room, and we really want people to feel warm and welcomed and comfortable here."
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