Yea, HopCat lacks diversity, but still serves up great beer, music

HopCat on Woodward and W. Canfield in Midtown. Steve Neavling/MCM
HopCat on Woodward and W. Canfield in Midtown. Steve Neavling/MCM
Eric Kiska 
Entertainment Writer

The new bar and restaurant HopCat in Detroit has become a catalyst for discussions about gentrification as more businesses crop up in Midtown. With 130 craft beers on tap, this pub is certainly an example of the “new Detroit.”

In a Detroit News column entitled, “Where are the black people?” Nolan Finley wrote: “It’s a clear red flag when you can sit in a hot new downtown restaurant and nine out of 10 tables are filled with white diners, a proportion almost exactly opposite of the city’s racial make-up.”

On Wednesday night, his point was quite clear. I asked an employee about it.

“It’s not really a black and white thing; it’s more of a cultural thing,” he told me.

Let’s face it: People from inner-city Detroit (rather white or black) aren’t the biggest consumers of craft beer and bluegrass/folk/country music. And with one of the highest poverty rates in the country, $5-12 beers aren’t always affordable. This isn’t different than many of the trendy new restaurants in downtown and Midtown.

Appleseed Collective performs . Eric Kiska/MCM
The Appleseed Collective, an Ann Arbor bluegrass gypsy-jazz foursome, performs in the “Huma Room.” Eric Kiska/MCM

Aside from the lack of diversity, Hopcat is everything you’d want in a bar. Bedazzling music was on display in the upstairs “Huma Room” by the Ann Arbor bluegrass gypsy-jazz foursome, The Appleseed Collective.

Their phenomenally-composed melodies seemed as if they fit into the roaring ’20s when rum-running and auto companies were pumping money into the Detroit economy. Even when they covered famed Atlanta rapper Ludacris’ Blueberry Yum-Yum, they proved they bring a seldom-found classic twist to every song they play.

Sound quality was spot-on and most of the tables were filled. The atmosphere was thriving with eye-popping murals and photographs of Gene Simmons, Mick Jagger and several other rock icons hanging from the walls. The choice of craft beer was never lacking. If you are a fan of blonde beer, amber beer, brown ales, Indian pale ales and lagers, then you can find solace on the corner of Woodward and W. Canfield.

The second floor has enough space to fit 400 people.
The second floor has enough space to fit 400 people.

One perturbing fact I noticed was that a quick look at The Huma Room’s calendar shows that the people performing here are predominantly white. Not to suggest they aren’t booking African American artists, but I’d say it’s similar to the crowd: 9 out of 10 of the musicians are white.

Related: Top 10 venues to explore Detroit’s vibrant music scene. 

Taking all of this into account, the owners of HopCat seem to be marketing their business towards upscale metro Detroiters at a time when the city of Detroit continues to have a faltering economy. I only wish they would book a wider array of musical acts. In this “new Detroit” that everyone is talking about, there needs to be room for both Detroiters and suburbanites who are flocking into the city.

Browse their website to see their food and beer menu as well as the events they have planned for the next few months.

Other stories in the series:

 

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.

  • bob

    Why is this about race? Why is everything about race? Who cares if there’s a bar in Detroit that mostly “white” people go to?

    What if I posted an article that a bar in Troy, a place with >70% white people, that there was a new bar that opened that mostly black people went to? Why is it always whites vs blacks? Why is it only white people that bring this shit up?

    The new generation doesn’t care. We don’t introduce each other as “my white friend” or “my black friend”. We’re just people trying to drink a fucking beer and get some food.

    Everyone complains about high end places being built in Detroit. What’s the alternative? Do nothing? For every “trendy” apartment complex/building and hipster bar there is an affordable housing complex or a more affordable bar.

    Places like this will bring more people to live in the city, regardless of color. As more people come in to the city, more people are paying taxes. More taxes, better public services.

  • falseprophet

    Is Nolan Finley finally trying to be facetious? Come on really!

  • maggiemay

    Maybe Nolan Finley doesn’t get that Blacks have their own venues, usually closed within a year because of a shooting. Who cares anyway as long as it brings business into the city?

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Theft shuts down tons of places in detroit. You cannot have a story with tons of things that are easy to steal out in the open if you are a new shop on your own.

      You can maybe get away with a token store, that your other 20-2000 stores subsidize, but you get looted into the red.

      Lots of stores run on not huge margins, for example if a kid steals a pop, no big deal right? Yeah except the owner makes such a small profit he has to sell 8-10 more pops just to get back to even.

      You can have single digit theft, if it gets higher than that, you have to shut down.

      Thats the same reason so many shops are all family run, and have no outsiders, outsiders LET their friends and family rob the joint blind, and they steal out the cash registers and throw loot out the back door.

      • Brian

        I would love to see the research you conducted to support the assertions you just made. Show me the numbers!

  • Brian

    it fills a niche market in midtown. Food is decent, music is decent (if you’re into the type they play) they did a good job on the building and the service was average. I expect it will only improve as time goes by and when the outside is open next summer it will be a cool hangout.

  • sa ho

    went there in the afternoon with my family. no kids’ menu. service was slow. i only saw white people, though there were many minority faces working there. my biggest complaint was getting accosted by three different homeless guys on my way into the restaurant with each guy doing the famous block-the-sidewalk-to-coerce-you-into-giving-money routine.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Ahhhh this is why you hate GP? You see diversity as some sort or moral mandate.

    I find beer tastes the same if I am the only latin/white dude in a room full of black people, only non arab, only latin/white guy at a spot filled with asians. Many times this has been the case where a black friend took me to a black spot, or asian friend took me to a spot with tons of asians.

    Good is good.

    Also diverse does not mean non white, for example detroit is full of blacks, about 86-87% blacks, thats not diverse, thats the same as GP or Livonia, heck troy michigan is a model of diversity it is only 72 percent white ! But you never hear anyone say that.

    Anyways as a multi ethnic guy, I hate the idea diverse means good, and you use it as essentially despite being so lilly white, its actually kind of ok, surprisingly! I mean usually you cannot expect a place with so many boring, loathsome whites to even be half decent. Despite the whites holding it back, hop cat finds a way to be ok.

    I would love to hear you say that about a joint in dearborn full of arabs, or even a white ethnic group like some place in hamtown, and say, despite all the serbs at this place, I found it tolerable.

    • muckraker_steve

      Who are you talking to? You realize I didn’t write this story, right?

      • bebow

        Javier is primarily talking to himself, Steve. He’s attempting to resolve internal conflict. Take no offense.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          Not talking to my self at all.

          Try reading what he actually said which is offensive, then read between the lines which in this case is not far under the surface, not much digging is needed.

          Its right there.

          Only a slight complement sits on top of, this place is gross there are to many whites here, I like being among the first whites in an area so I can feel special, and if too many whites make a spot popular, well it is just wrong. To many whites ruin to many spots.

          That is essentially the story. I left the burbs, or hate the burbs, I do not like being around tons of the same groups of people … well unless they are black, asian, all immigrants from Europe might be ok. To many white dudes from the mid west makes me want to puke.

          That is the story

      • javierjuanmanuel

        No I didn’t notice that. Not the point. Why the need to say its ok, despite being too white.

        What is the point of publishing that?

        Is that enough of a summary ?