From deaths during construction to reported suicides, rumors have long swirled around the 81-year-old Leland Hotel housed in downtown Detroit. One tale that has proven true is that the Leland City Club provides a vibe like no other spot in the area.
“I go to City because it is the most open-minded place on the face of the earth,” says 27-year-old Charity Smith of Westland. “City Club embraces people.”
This downtown venue has been growing and transforming for nearly a quarter of a century to match the patrons that have come to call the club their own.
“Each generation is a little bit different,” says Manager Sybil Carter, who has worked at City Club for 23 years. “When I first started there it was very hardcore punk. Then it was just punk. Then it went into techno. Then it went into the Goth, then industrial. It’s like we don’t have to do anything, the people change.”
City Club also shares space with the Labyrinth and Studio 54 clubs, which are housed in the basement of the 21-story hotel.
Look around and you’ll see everything from jeans and T-shirts to French-maids outfits to guys in mesh shirts and dog collars. Don’t expect to see too many prep-sters sporting khakis or button-up Polo shirts -- but, at the City Club, anything goes.
"It’s really open,” Carter says. “It’s just everything. It really makes the place stand out when you go there.”
Every weekend is Halloween at City Club with its black, painted-peeled walls, sword-wielding pirates and eclectic décor. The come-as-you-are feel is apparent the moment you walk through the doors and see glass Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling and Mardi Gras-inspired garland draped along the wall.
“At other clubs, you’re kind of made to feel inferior and they’re not about that,” Smith says. “City Club embraces people for who or what they are.”
City Club screams “be yourself” in a world where different is not always accepted as good.
“You’re just there to have fun and that’s what it’s all about,” Carter says.
As clubs around the city rise up then die, City Club, which doesn’t advertise, has been doing its own thing successfully by word of mouth. “Older customers that came in a long time ago, I’ve seen some of their children,” Carter says.
Pick me up
Every Saturday, Bishop, the bartender, mixes up a different “drink of the night.” The favorite, he says, is the Angel, which “tastes like Kool-Aid.” If you have too many, “you might end up in Mexico and not know how you got there,” he warns.
Smith, who frequents the club almost every other weekend, touts the Vampire Kiss, which will “knock your socks off.” But Carter said it’s all about the Purple Jesus.
“All of our drink specials are a secret,” she says. “We try to give everything an interesting name.”
You can bring in food from the hotel café to counteract the affects of the other-worldly drinks, but you must show a receipt.
While City clubbers are typically geared for dancing and bands are few and far between, the Detroit nightclub has seen the likes of Depeche Mode, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Smashing Pumpkins and Rob Zombie come through its doors.
The four resident DJs play everything from industrial to punk to gothic music. “Anything that the customers want to listen to, that’s what we play,” Carter says. “That’s what makes the City Club -- the music.”
Ese Esan is all about Detroit nightlife. Email the one and only D-scenester at firstname.lastname@example.org