Bar-hopping and pub crawling are activities that tend to be more fun when they adhere to specific or creative themes. The premise of a bar crawl does not have to be limited to hitting establishments within reasonable walking distance; you can also stick to interesting themes from a perspective that you and your fellow crawlers have in common. If you are into the amazing musical catalog of the Motown record label, here are the spots you should add to your Detroit bar-hopping list.
Northern Lights Lounge
Located on Baltimore Avenue and less than a mile from Hitsville, USA, the Northern Lights Lounge is the perfect spot for you and your friends to explore after visiting the Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard. Walking down here takes about 15 minutes, which is perfect if you want to get a full meal or bar snacks when the lounge opens at 2:00 in the afternoon. Suppose you come down after the Motown Museum closes 6:00 on a Tuesday.
In that case, you will want to stay and enjoy a live performance by Detroit’s own Dennis Coffey, a master guitar player who happens to be a certified Motown Funk Brother, meaning that he has recorded with legends such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross. The Northern Lights Lounge provides a performance space to many local artists who are heavily influenced by the early Motown sound, so you can also check out neo-soul bands and DJs who spin nothing but classic vinyl.
Time Will Tell
During the Golden Age of Motown Records, the Milwaukee Junction district of Detroit featured a small nightlife section that was rather classy. Unfortunately, the shakeup of the automotive industry from the 1950s through the 1970s caused Milwaukee Junction to fall into blight, thus forcing owners of upscale cocktail bars to close down. In recent years, there has been some investment in the district, and some new establishments, such as Time Will Tell, have emerged to revitalize this part of town and bring back some of that classy Motown vibe.
Time Will Tell is a cocktail bar where modern mixology is practiced to a sophisticated degree, and the decor is the kind you would have seen at upscale bars in this part of town when artists such as The Supremes and The Four Tops dominated music charts around the world. This bar offers a cocktail class taught by house mixologists from time to time, and it is just a few blocks away from the Northern Lights Lounge, so it is still within crawling distance.
The closest watering hole to the Motown Museum is a five-minute walk down Holden Street, but it often opens later at night, so you are better off starting your Motown-themed Detroit bar crawl at Northern Lights or Time Will Tell before backtracking west to Marble Bar.
This live music venue is renowned for its eclectic calendar of events; for example, an EDM weekend may be followed by performances by the likes of Madison McFerrin and Derrick Carter on select weeknights. As can be expected from a bar that supports the Detroit sound, local artists influenced by the classic Motown style can often be found performing at Marble Bar.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
Located in the Eight Mile district, this legendary music venue is not close to the Motown Museum or the aforementioned spots, but it is a must-visit establishment for anyone who wants the full Motown experience. You may have to take a taxi or call up an Uber to come here, but it will be worth it on any night. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is where the legendary Jackie Wilson used to perform when returning home from concert tours, and he was the singer whose songs captivated Motown founder Berry Gordy.
So there you have it, a list of bars in Detroit connected to Motown in various ways. Whether you’re a label fan or just interested in learning more about music history, this bar crawl will be a great experience.