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.
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.
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.
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:
- Old Miami remains unique gem for music in the Cass Corridor
- Baker’s Keyboard Lounge retains remarkable jazz tradition in Detroit.
- Cadieux Cafe, a former speakeasy, serves up great live shows, Belgian beers
- Punk rock is not dead in Detroit. Trumbullplex, others keep genre alive
- Jack White’s Homecoming at Fox Theatre Was Final Piece of Puzzle
- ‘Whatever’ Festival transforms Detroit house into music festival
- Local bands impress at Dally in the Alley in Cass Corridor
- Blue Mountain Belle brings unique sound to PJs Lager House
- Hamtramck’s premier music venue, Smalls, pays homage to 90s’s alternative scene
- Psychedelic indie-rock band Foxygen brings high energy to Crofoot
- Rodrigo Y Gabriela one of best live acts of past decade
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.