Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A new craft cocktail bar and performance venue is in the works in Hamtramck

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 2:06 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

A new craft cocktail bar and performance venue focusing on music and theater is planned for a now-vacant Hamtramck building.

Barter Detroit co-owners Cait Pluto, Jake Goodrich, and Jennifer Sandella say they're set to begin construction on a former travel agency at 11601 Joseph Campau, and are targeting an October opening.

Goodrich is a Michigan-native but moved to New York City where he met Sandella and Pluto. The group decided to open their own space after watching craft cocktails have their moment in NYC and seeing the same thing playing out in Detroit.

The goal is for business's two components to complement and support one another, Pluto says, and though the concept involves art and craft cocktails, she stresses that Barter will be a down-to-earth, approachable spot.

"We're taking it down a notch. We want it to be approachable and fun," she tells Metro Times. "We're definitely not trying to be the next high-end cocktail joint — that's not our thing at all. But we want to make sure people can grab a great drink or a can of beer or an awesome shot of whiskey while experiencing the space."

Sandella's background is in theater and she served as beverage director at several New York restaurants, so she'll be developing the menu and drink recipes.

Among those are options like the Hello Sunshine (mezcal, green chartreuse, aperol, fresh lemon juice, fresh pineapple juice, and honey syrup) and the Everything Nice (gin, Lillet Rouge, dry vermouth, fresh lemon juice, and chai syrup).

Pluto says Barter is developing a boilermaker menu, and the bar will also offer a selection of beer and wine. Cocktails will run in the $7 to $11 range.

"We're taking a snob-ish element out of the whole thing, so the vibe will be relaxed," she says. "There's definitely a design emphasis, but not to the extent that it's repelling people."

The other half of Barter is the performance space, which Pluto says will be a "safe space for artists and arts of all kind" to work, perform, and grow.

She adds that they want the space to be put to use throughout the day, and they're opening it to the community as a resource for local musicians, artists, students at nearby arts schools, and so on who are just getting their careers started.

"We have this awesome space that we want to offer up when it's not in use to artists who could benefit from it. Like if they're trying to find a place to rehearse, but don't have money to fund it, they could do it here," Pluto says. "We'll get creative about how we can come up with a method of allowing them to work in the space in exchange for maybe not money. But we want it to be flexible, we want to be a launch pad for artists."

She adds that they're open to music, burlesque, traditional theater, improv theater, the visual arts, and just about anything else.

Why set it up in Hamtramck?

The group checked out spaces all around the Detroit area but chose Hamtramck for several reasons. First, the building stood out. The former travel agency's looks are deceiving as it's actually a 3,500-square-foot space with a small balcony that can serve as a sound and lighting booth. The drop ceilings that will be removed are concealing roughly 20-foot ceilings.

Beyond that, the sense of community and Hamtramck's history also seemed to be more in line with Barter's vision, Pluto says.

"As we got to know the neighborhood a little bit more, the history around the music scene and bar scene ... the city nearly shunning prohibition and almost not participating in it — it's something that we gravitated towards," she says. "We didn't go into Hamtramck saying 'This is the spot,' but as we go to know it ... we realized it had that vibe that we want."

Barter is already talking with other businesses about collaborations, the town has been welcoming, and Pluto says, "it feels like everything is coming together — we've received a lot of initial support, so it feels like the right move."

Find Barter's website here.

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