Here’s the truth: The word “Detroit” as a brand has so much power. Incredible value. Serious cachet. In terms of marketing moxie – and to ruthlessly rip off Flo Rida — the club cannot handle Detroit right now.
And here’s why I think so…Let me introduce Dan Bradley, who named his Costa Mesa, Calif., bar after the city. That’s right. He did it on purpose; it’s really named “Detroit Bar.” Even if his hot spot is in the heart of trendy Orange County, Bradley proudly wears the city’s moniker on his 250-capacity music venue.
Bradley and I have been communicating for a while now, going back and forth as to why he named his tavern after Detroit, what he likes about our fair city and what inspires him here. And this lover of Motown, Midwestern architecture and all things Detroit Techno wanted to give his patrons a taste of what makes this berg great. (And, by the way, we are great.)
“The people who pick up on the reference of design and music are the ones that get it,” Bradley said of the seemingly unusual moniker “Detroit Bar” for a place so very far from cold winters and automotive manufacturers.
I heard of the Detroit Bar as I was doing research for an article. I was trying to find holiday-themed events at local pubs, so I put the search “Detroit Bar” into my beloved Google. And, there was Bradley’s little bundle of joy. It seemed so ridiculous to name your Cali bar after a Michigan city…until I started to talk to him. He truly digs Detroit.
“We opened the bar in 2001 and named it Detroit Bar mainly because of Detroit’s rich musical heritage,” Bradley explained. “Motown, MC5, Iggy pop, Detroit Techno, White Stripes … to name a few.” (He’s serious – they even had a drink called the “Derrick Maybreeze” for those in the know.)
This is all music that has “a huge influence on the artists that perform at our venue,” Bradley said. But other significant factors are his extreme love for art, architecture and modernist design – all things we have in great quantities – if you bother to look for it.
“I studied Art History at UCLA with Detroit native Lisa DiChiera, daughter of David DiChiera (you know, Michigan Opera Theater Director/Detroit Opera House),” Bradley told me. “I have visited Detroit a few times to see Lisa in 1990 and again to attend her wedding and fell in love with the city and surrounding areas.”
He’s also a fan of our fab buildings – which fit in nicely with Detroit Bar’s setting. His company, The Memphis Group, purchased the site (then known as Club Mesa) in 2001. Back then, it was known as a destination for punk music, and the interior showed it. So they remodeled, added a state-of-the-art sound system and built a reputation for its progressive music selections.
“Detroit Bar with its mid-last century esthetic also pays veiled homage to some of my favorite modernist designers that came out of the Detroit area – especially Cranbrook Academy of Art – such as Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinien and Florence Knoll,” he said.
Yup, Eames. Saarinien. Knoll. They all spent time here – and if you’re ever lucky enough to see the interior of buildings such as General Motors’ amazing Tech Center, you’ll see why Bradley feels as passionate about our architecture as he does.
So besides his love of art, autos and The Henry Ford, he just loves the city. But he doesn’t fill the walls of Detroit Bar with pictures of the Michigan Central Station or Slows Bar B Q. Nope. It’s not a literal reference, Bradley said. But people do sometimes seem confused by the name.
“They do scratch their head a bit,” he admitted. “In fact, we had comedian David Cross performing a Tsunami benefit and during his performance, he did a bit on ‘Why would you name your bar after a city in the throes of decay? Was Gary, Indiana, taken?’”
And, just like we do, Bradley just laughs it off.
“We take it in stride. We are in Orange County, California, so my intent was to ‘transport’ people via a musical experience,” Bradley said.
So…Detroit as a brand. Yup. I think we’re onto something here.