Buhl Bar brings the cocktail hour back to Financial District

Call it a Mad Men-inspired yearning for the martini hours of yesteryear; or the way the mind creates possibilities after walking past an empty space; or even just a personal dream finally recognized. For those reasons, and more, James Van Dyke says, the Buhl Bar needs to exist in the downtown area's Financial District. Look for this after-work haunt to open its doors in the next two weeks in the historic Buhl Building.

"It's funny," Van Dyke says, "I got into real estate because I originally wanted to open a bar in Detroit, in 2003. So this is kind of coming full circle -- I'm opening a bar after doing real estate in Detroit."

Headed by the Roxbury Group, which recently debuted the Auburn mixed-use project in Midtown, The Buhl Bar will offer 900 sq. ft of throwback glamor in the space which formerly housed Starbuck's Coffee. "We were always lamenting that what Detroit has really lost, in the Financial District, is the idea of the after-work cocktail bar," Van Dyke says. "Each one of the buildings in the district had one. There was a very strong happy hour culture here." He says the success of after-work happy hours at 24 Grille, Fountain Bistro and Roast inspired the Roxbury Group to move forward with plans. Luckily, the old liquor license from the building's original Buhl Bar was held in escrow by the owners, who embraced the concept.

Van Dyke says the 21st century Buhl Bar will achieve an upscale feel while retaining a laid-back vibe, appealing to businesspeople and casual passerby alike. Housed in a former bank lobby, the design is heavy on dark wood, plaster ceilings and crown moldings. Thirteen seats span the bar, while an additional seven seats are available at the window seat. "It happens to be my favorite spot in the bar, because you can sit at the window and watch people pass by on Congress Street," Van Dyke says.

While the cocktail menu is still under wraps, Van Dyke says one aperitif will be inspired by a Buhl building tragedy in the 1980s -- a shootout in an upstairs law firm between a disgruntled client and an attorney. "Hit in the crossfire was a legal clerk named Eve August," Van Dyke says. "My grandmother was actually working on the floor when it happened, and was very close to the people involved. So we wanted to name one of the drinks after Eve August."

Follow the Buhl Bar on Facebook, or swing by 535 Griswold next week for a cocktail.

Source: James Van Dyke, vice-president of development, The Roxbury Group
Writer: Ashley C. Woods