One of the biggest surprises of the summer, Deluxx Fluxx opened in early August in downtown Detroit’s Belt Alley. The bar and music venue is now the permanent home for a traveling arcade bar art installation by the same name and marries street art aesthetics with an expert cocktail lineup from the bartenders behind two of Detroit’s best cocktail spots — Standby and the Skip.
The venue is located inside a previously underutilized, 4,000-square-foot underground storage space below the north side of the artsy pedestrian alley. Diving down out of the heat into Deluxx Fluxx patrons are treated to visual feast not unlike something out of Blade Runner. Art duo Faile and their frequent collaborator Bast worked together with partners Anthony Curis and bartender Joe Robinson to develop the interior look.
The effect is art that’s also functional. The walls in the blacklight room and arcade space are plastered with original prints that feel like a natural accumulation of graffiti and band fliers. The primarily black and white arcade room features 12 custom-made games including four pinball machines. The games sport names and characters from Detroit like Zug Island Revenge and Eastern Market King. The 20 colorful, carved tap handles behind the bar were also designed specifically for the Detroit installation.
Light fixtures throughout the space including the back bar and stage were designed by lighting expert Andi Watson and can be programmed to change colors to suit the DJs and other live entertainment performing on a given night. The bar features inlaid stripe of light on its top that Robinson says was somewhat inspired by The Shining to cast an eerie glow underneath the bartenders’ faces and the drinks.
Bartenders Kyle Adam Thousand and Matt Bieke teamed up to develop the drink menu, which is comprised primarily of 10 draft cocktails. The method of dispensing pre-made cocktails from taps has been growing in popularity at bars for quite some time now, but at Deluxx Fluxx they serve a practical purpose; bartenders to fill orders quickly and efficiently, while avoiding the awkwardness of loudly wielding a cocktail shaker in the middle of a musical performance.
The tap system itself was custom made. Robinson says he got some hints on how to design it from the bartenders at tapped cocktail spot Yours Sincerely in Brooklyn. Tapped cocktails are something Robinson and his team have been experimenting with for quite some time, though he says that it’s still a challenge to balance the CO2 with the flavors in each drink. “Nobody has written a book about them or has any concrete information on them,” he says, “so it’s something that we’ve been just constantly trying to get better at figuring it out.”
Visitors at Deluxx Fluxx can expect cocktails like the Teasin & Pleasin — a combination of salted plum, bourbon, and a touch of root beer flavor — and the Cold Morning with rye, pineapple, gochujang, cold brew coffee, and spiced molasses. The Deluxx Fluxx gin and tonic features gin and lavender-coriander tonic (the quinine in the tonic glows under blacklight). Each of the drinks is named after phrases featured on the posters throughout the venue and range from $9 to $12 per cocktail. Customers can also find nine beers including Hamms and Brew Detroit’s Cerveza Del Ray alongside non-alcoholic seasonal sodas, root beer, kombucha, and more.
Deluxx Fluxx is open six days a week with a regular lineup of DJs and live bands, peppered with burlesque entertainment, karaoke, and possibly black light bingo. Photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard visited Deluxx Fluxx to check out the space and the drinks. Take a tour in the gallery below.
Deluxx Fluxx is located on the north side of the Belt Alley at 225 Gratiot Ave.; open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.