Wednesday, December 13, 2006

De-Evolution of Detroit Nightlife

It doesn't take a genius with an MBA from an ivy-league school to recognize that any new business will change and adapt to market demand. So we should not be surprised when a new bar opens up down the street, or a new club moves into an old space downtown, and their ambiance changes after the first two months... right? WRONG! In the world of bars and clubs, the customer does not run the show. They are merely presented with options. The business owner's choice of atmosphere is merely another portion of the risk they take in opening their doors. Venue owners and promoters need to recognize this new concept and simply let venues close down if they can't hold their own, rather than bastardize a potentially nice atmosphere for the sake of $$$.

Take a trip to New York, Chicago or LA. Hang out for the weekend, and don't go back for a year. When you do, you'll notice that only a handful of places you visited are still operational. There are most definitely a collection of dingy, hipster bars that exist and will forever remain standing, but for the most part, any swanky-chillout-ultralounge-euro-miami-eqsue venues will have departed. The reason they'll have closed is that they get stale. In Detroit, such is not the case. Over here, places stay open and start playing host for college crowds, which is always a safe financial gamble. The music changes, the prices *might* change, the seating arrangements will shift a little, and the overall effect is a degradation not only in the quality of said venue, but also of the Metro-Detroit area as a whole.

This unwillingness for a venue to stand its ground and face the threat of opening only to close one year later is putting Detroit into a downward spiral. If no one takes the risk to differentiate themselves from the bar next door, then the city will never have a chance to gain any nightlife success. True, Detroit is all about rock n' roll. But there's no reason we can't have at a decent selection of hotspots in a variety of styles.

A handful of places are guilty of catering to the masses. Mixx Lounge (Novi), despite the praise we have thrown its way, could be 100% better. The setup, lighting, attention to detail and even its name all scream "Lounge." Go there on a Sunday night, and you'll almost get that. To us, a lounge is a calm, cool quiet place. A place you can go to relax and talk in normal voice. Keyword: Relax. Unfortunately, you can never really do that on a typical night. Even the DJ has started mixing between Nelly Furtado and White Snake. WTF is up with THAT?! Another culprit of change is Cinq (Royal Oak), which has gone from upscale bar to basement frat party. The cool light up tables, couches and high top tables+chairs create a potential swanky midnight til 2 hang out, especially with the private rooms off to the side. But they ruined it. At some point along the line they should have capped the number of people allowed entry as well as filtered out the crowd who can't meet trendy dress code standards. Something tells us they were doomed from the start by the number of televisions airing sports. If only they could still muster a line out the door, they might be able to sway things back in the direction of cool.

It's not only bars that should be criticized. How long has Bleu (Downtown) been open? Or how about Elysium Lounge (Downtown)? It's about time these venues are wiped clean. We're not asking for a simple name change. We want you to properly gut the place and hire a top firm to come in and design something that will make us feel good walking into your club. Why should we get all dressed up, pay for cover and/or valet, and be left with a space that hasn't changed since our fake IDs were still of use? We haven't yet checked out Plan B (Downtown), but we hope it wasn't the victim of a lonely name change. iLounge (Pontiac) did it right by gutting the place and hiring someone who knows what they're doing to handle the interiors. But we'll hold off on passing out awards until we're sure that it won't stay that way for another 10 years.

Every sane person wants to maximize the amount of money they get in return for their investment. But if they're not willing to look at the big picture and make positive contributions to the city that supports them, they should just stay away from investing. Detroit needs more than just another place that serves up rum, whiskey and vodka. It needs more than a place that cycles through top 40's and top hits of the 70's and 80's. Detroit needs someone to come in and set an example. We're still waiting for a venue with a velvet rope and a guy with a list in his hand who turns people away at the door because they're dressed in last year's fashions.