Hamtramck is gaining a new bar and performing arts venue this weekend. Laid-back cocktail lounge Barter is set to open on Saturday, March 30, at 11601 Joseph Campau Ave. with a lineup of easy drinking beverages and a black box theater space.
Owners Cait Pluto, Michigan native Jake Goodrich, bartender Jennifer Sandella partnered to develop Barter last year with the goal of creating a neighborhood hangout and self-sustaining community venue where artists and performers could trade their skills in exchange for things they needed such as free practice space. The group eventually secured a 3,500-square-foot former travel agency with 20-foot ceilings and large back room that was ideal for the events space.
As Pluto points out, Barter is perhaps one of the few genuinely “new” bars to open in Hamtramck city limits, where repurposing former watering holes and nightclubs is relatively common. The team spent nearly a year renovating the building and uncovering some surprises along the way such as checkered terrazzo floors underneath the old carpeting. The lounge features roughly 40 seats at the bar and along the windows overlooking Joseph Campau.
Barter’s owners spent time collecting used and retro furnishings from antique stores and their own family homes to give the space a relaxed and welcoming feel. A chalkboard that hangs above the entrance to the theater is from the former Busy Bee Hardware store in Eastern Market, while the window curtains were collected from a shuttered theater in New York. The interior will also be accented with a rotating selection of local art starting with work from Jen Maiseloff.
Sandella is spearheading the cocktail menu, which features 10 drinks all priced at around $9. Customers can sip on cocktails such as the frothy Golden Harvest with Montelobos Mezcal, Ancho Reyes, passion fruit, lime, and turmeric syrup. A torched mini Eggo Waffle tops the Kerry’s Country Breakfast — a mixture of Benchmark Bourbon, smoked maple syrup, and black walnut bitters. Sandella’s ode to Hamtramck’s Polish heritage is the J.C. Bramble with vodka, Jezynowka blackberry brandy, lemon, and simple syrup. In addition to the cocktails, Barter will also offer between eight and 10 beers, seven wines in a range of styles, fresh lemonade, coffee, tea, and Detroit City Sodas.
Barter is still in the process of finalizing its black box theater space, but expects to start hosting events there soon. The venue will come equipped with a temporary stage that can be moved to accommodate individual performances ranging from standup comedy to live music to DJs. Barter will be a 21-and-up venue for now, though the team says it’s looking into the logistics of allowing in customers 18-and-up particularly for performances.
Photographer Michelle Gerard took a tour of the finished space ahead of the opening as well as a handful of drinks appearing on Barter’s menu. Take a tour of the space in the gallery below.
Barter is located at 11601 Joseph Campau Ave. in Hamtramck; for opening weekend the bar will open from noon to 2 a.m. on Saturday and noon to midnight on Sunday; going forward the bar will open on weekdays starting at 4 p.m. and at noon on weekends.