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Beloved New Center Bar Northern Lights Lounge to Reopen Memorial Weekend

Just in time for Movement, the popular spot reopens after a years-long hiatus

The orange exterior and light up arrow sign at Northern Lights on a sunny day. Jenna Belevender
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

Northern Lights Lounge, the beloved New Center bar and restaurant that has remained closed for more than three years, is set to reopen its doors on Friday, May 26, just in time for Movement weekend.

In an announcement posted on Facebook on Monday evening, owner Michael Solaka informed followers that the spot plans to open for evening dance parties that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then close on Memorial Day, before returning to regular service seven days a week on Tuesday, May 30.

“It’s been three long years, and we are SO ready to hang out again with all our friends and neighbors,” added Solaka in the post.

Solaka tells Eater that he closed the lounge on March 16, 2020 and used much of the pandemic-induced downtime that forced bars and restaurants in Michigan to cease dining service for much of 2020 to to make some improvements to the building. He says he considered reopening several times over the last three years, but wanted to wait until the worst of COVID-19 had passed and he could ensure that he could properly staff the place. Not much had been written about the closure, aside from individual Detroiters taking to the internet to speculate about its eventual return.

Northern Lights was something of a music lover’s paradise prior to its extended closure, known for its sprawling garden patio, mimosa-filled brunches, and almost nightly DJ sets and live performances, including weekly appearances by Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey, according to a December 2019 video produced by Detroit Public Television’s One Detroit show featuring an interview with Solaka. In addition, its restroom — featuring a glamorous sitting room — was particularly distinctive in the local bar scene. A vintage shuffleboard also added to the charm.

“I was tempted to open several times, you know, after six months, after a year, and every time I went to think about reopening, there’d be another flare up, another variant COVID-wise, you know, it’s like, I just didn’t want to open and close, open and close, it costs a lot of money to do that. Plus, I didn’t want to put the staff through that,” Solaka says.

Solaka says that he was ready to reopen about six months ago, but troubles finding adequate staffing caused further delays. Among those returning is chef Yolanda Evans, who will resume churning out the spot’s famous house-made chicken strips and falafel-based veggie burgers, in addition to adding a black bean and beet vegan burger patty.

Northern Lights swung open its doors in 2004. Previously, the place was called Tandem Bar and Grill and it catered mostly to the 9-5 General Motors crowd back in the day when the Detroit automaker was headquarters a few blocks north on West Grand Boulevard.

Once Northern Lights resumes regular service, hours of operation will be 2 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday. The kitchen will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Eventually, the establishment will open at 11 a.m. on the weekend to make way for brunch service. Northern Lights is at at 660 W Baltimore Street.

Update: May 15, 2023, 4:40 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from MIchael Solaka.