After 37 years, Hamtramck’s New Dodge Lounge has had new owners.
The bar and music venue is now owned by Happy Life Hospitality, the management team behind the Detroit Shipping Co. and Lansing Shuffle. The team also runs the Livonia Athletic District, a former YMCA converted into an indoor sports facility.
Jonathan Hartzell, one of the owners, says the deal closed on Thursday. He says they hope to reopen in August after the liquor license has been transferred and they’ve made some upgrades to the space.
“We like the charm of what is there,” he says Metro times† “You know, we’re going to clean it up a bit, and anything that’s not functional, we’ll get it working again.”
Hartzell says he envisions a football theme at the bar because of the success of Detroit City FC, the professional football team that has moved to nearby Keyworth Stadium. That could include adding more TVs to play international football matches, as well as installing arcade games. Hartzell says football is dear to him – he has been coaching football for 35 years.
There is another personal aspect to the project: Harztell says his great-grandfather lived in Hamtramck after coming to the US about a century ago. ‘Until 1988 he had a small market and a house there,’ he says. “And so I always wanted to double back and do something in Hamtramck.”
His great-grandfather, who was Polish, had a daughter who married an Italian man from Detroit. Harztell says he hopes to honor his family’s heritage by putting Polish and Italian dishes on the menu that he expects will be few frills — think hot dogs, sausages, soft serve ice cream and puff pastries.
The change of ownership comes as a local artist and promoter named 1magine has been suing the previous owners of New Dodge Lounge in recent weeks for what he claims is discrimination against black performers. In recent months, the bar has held sporadic hours and programming, with a black booking agent suddenly fired, preventing scheduled events from happening.
“I think they checked out a little early, so they weren’t that interested in being open all the time anymore,” Hartzell says of the previous owner, adding, “I can understand why he was upset.”
Harztell says he spoke to 1magine to understand the situation.
“I called them up and just said, ‘Hey, real quick, so you know, I’m the new owner, and I’d appreciate it if you focus your irritation on previous owners rather than the building,’” he say. “He was cool. We chatted for a while.”
Harztell says the new owners plan to host regular live music at the New Dodge Lounge. For starters, he says they will likely share talent with the Detroit Shipping Co. and eventually will look into working with national booking agents.
“We love the live music on stage,” he says. “So we’re going to run more consistent programming on that. That’s the most important thing, just consistent programming.”
Hartzell says the new owners hope to get to grips with how the space functions, as well as the wishes of the surrounding community, in the coming weeks before making solid plans.
“It has a good history and the community around it has a good history,” he says. “DCFC has a very nice piece next to it, and they are good operators. There are many good operators around.”
He adds, “I’m going to clean it up, I’m going to make it consistent and then bring it back to what everyone remembered — a good time.”
The new Dodge Lounge is located at 8850 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck.
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