UFO Factory in Corktown revives bar where Kirk Gibson, Babe Ruth drank

Photos by Eric Kiska
Photos by Eric Kiska
By Eric Kiska 
Entertainment writer

When Tiger Stadium closed in Corktown, it certainly took a piece of the neighborhood with it. Once an area with Tigers memorabilia shops and sports bars, Corktown has been reinventing itself lately. An example is the recently opened UFO Factory, a bar located in the same building where Hoot Robinson’s used to be.

Located on Trumbull off Michigan, the cross streets that beloved Detroit radio broadcaster Ernie Harwell called “the Corner,” it was originally opened in 1938 as the Tiger Cocktail Bar but eventually changed to Hoot Robinson’s. It was once known for being the Corktown bar where athletes such as Kirk Gibson, Babe Ruth and Bobby Layne used to drink and eat hot dogs. The name-change to the UFO Factory proves the drastic difference.

UFONew owners Aliccia Bollig-Fischer, Dion Fischer and Matthew Bihun have transformed it into a spot for art shows and live music. The exterior of the building has been repainted from green to red and metallic, while the interior walls are now filled with post-modern psychedelic art. The dive bar has taken on a more futuristic tone to blend with its name.

Arcade games, a projector, a jukebox, a pinball machine and a stage have been added, although, the UFO Factory tips its hats to the building’s origins by keeping a sign on the newly-installed back patio that says “Hoot Robinson’s.”

Saturday night a local DJ collective, “The Space Museum,” (with Mike Doyle, Zach Zalac and Marcie Bolen) spun intergalactic travel-inspired vinyls to projections of Salvador Dali art on the wall behind them. The atmosphere was rather relaxed because the bar was fairly empty for a Saturday night.

With the change in ownership, the building and sound system have undergone some renovations, but it still seems like it needs some improvements and tune-ups to really capture the “New Detroit” feel they’re going for. The location, however, can’t be beat with the phantom of Tiger Stadium across the street.

”It’s like the old lady sitting in the corner with nobody paying any attention to her,” Ernie Harwell once said. ”And the young debutante here’s getting all the attention.’’

Although the young debutante was referring to Comerica Park and the old lady was describing Tiger Stadium before its destruction, the quote is still relevant today. The UFO Factory is a testament to the attention these new businesses around Detroit are getting, while the old lady died and became a ghost. The empty field and gothic-like fences have a certain eeriness to them, almost as if the spirits of Tiger Stadium are still living within its confines.

Since its opening, the UFO Factory has attracted many independent DJ’s and bands from around the area and has served as a platform for up-and-coming metro Detroit artists to experiment with their sound. A new bar for aspiring musicians is never a bad thing for a neighborhood. Hopefully it will attract more of a crowd than it did Saturday night.

The UFO Factory has a list of upcoming events on its Facebook website. Take a drive down to Michigan and Trumbull and see what The Corner has become since the demolition of Tiger Stadium.

Eric Kiska

Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.