“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…”
Ok, so we don’t live in Boston, but Detroit’s own Northern Lights is about as close to “Cheers” as you can get without leaving the metro Detroit area.
“You walk into the bar and you are instantly made welcome,” says Harold Boyer of Detroit. “They memorize your favorite drink and it's in front of your face within seconds. Everyone is polite and will talk to you, and it's genuine, not contrived.”
Exactly the feel Greg Visse a.k.a. Kegger was going for.
“We took over the Tamdem Bar and Grill four years ago and revamped the venue and renamed it Northern Lights Lounge about three years ago,” says Kegger, one of three of the bar’s owners. “As far as the target audience, we cater to everyone. Seriously, everyone. We try to make it diverse by doing different things.”
Northern Lights is located on W. Baltimore in the New Center area -- center stage this weekend for the Comerica CityFest -- just a few blocks from the Fisher Building.
“No dress code,” Kegger says simply. “But we encourage people to dress to impress, and just being in our clean bar makes everyone want to do that.”
Both buys and girls sport jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes, but you won’t be out of place with a dress or eye-catching shirt.
“If the nukes hit, I know where I want to be at that moment,” Boyer says. “Northern Lights Lounge drinking a stiff gin and tonic and maybe screwing up another karaoke song. This is, without a doubt, my favorite bar in the universe. That’s saying a lot because this is a big damn universe.
The nights at Northern Lights are as varied as the spirits behind the bar -- just ask server Meg Jones who’s been schmoozing with customers for about three months.
“The atmosphere depends on the night,” Jones says. “If -- for example -- we have a bigger band, DJ or hype crowd, then the place will be more up beat. Regardless of the night though, everyone that works at Northern Lights attempts to make every person's stay enjoyable.”
If your idea of enjoyable is lounging on the leather chairs in front of the big-screen TV, this place has you covered. Shuffleboard? Check. Part lounge, club and bar, Northern Lights is the perfect compromise for even your most indecisive friends.
“We’re like a family and want everyone who walks through our doors to feel as though they are apart of our family, too,” Jones says.
Pick me up
With a dining capacity of 250 (venue capacity is 350 without tables and chairs), Northern Lights serves up traditional bar far including fries, sandwiches and wings. Eat at the bar, a booth or a table.
Happy Hour includes specials on domestic beer and well martinis, and Northern Lights has regular specials on wines. Drinks average $5.
“Every night’s different here,” Kegger says.
You’ll find karaoke on Sundays; a more punk feel with live DJs on Mondays; hip-hop with DJ Dez, Uncle Paulie, Benny Ben and weekly guests Tuesdays; “be your own DJ” night is Wednesday where patrons can throw down for 15 minutes; soul night is Thursdays; Friday is dance party with DJ Frankie Bank$; and Saturday is rock 'n' roll night with live bands.
“We try to focus on local talent,” Kegger says. “If a national act wants to play, we try to pair them up with local talent.”
Though Uncle Paulie (Paul Anagnostopoulos) has been DJing at this spot for four years, he’s been a regular for about six years.
“The atmosphere in that lounge is perfect - a nice, clean, low-key spot where you can take your chick, mellow out and enjoy the ambiance. It's a place for grown folks. Nobody is trying to fight or cause a ruckus. The staff is really cool and they don't look at you as just a ring at the register.”