John Brisson and Alex Sanchez were a little wary when a friend told them metro Detroit's only lesbian bar, Stilettos, was up for sale, but the couple decided to take a tour of the place anyway.
"The first night we went there was a great show, but it was all women except for us," says Brisson. "It needed a little bit of work, and I'm being kind when I say that. The owner had it for 20 years and was just burnt out. She wanted to hand it over to someone who was going to take care of it and keep it open to the gay community."
When Brisson and Sanchez took over last February they did just that, along with a slew of renovations. They tore down walls and an old drop ceiling, and they added a state-of-the-art sound system. And before they reopened the club in March as Inferno, they decided the place wasn't going to just be a lesbian bar.
"When we opened it back up, we wanted it to be more evolved," says Sanchez. "It's 2015, we didn't want it to be a designated gay bar or straight bar. We call it an 'open concept bar' — if you're open-minded you're welcome to come in."
"We consider ourselves an LGBTQS bar," says Brisson. "We added straight people on the end there."
In order to cater to everyone, Brisson and Sanchez make sure that every week they're offering programming that will attract men and women, gay and straight.
Wednesday is men's day, with unlimited draft beer for $10. Every Friday night there's an all-male revue that Brisson says is for straight women and gay men. Every Saturday night there's a themed party. Starting Dec. 20 Sideshow Sundays with Pollyanna High-Gloss will feature a bearded singing lady, sword-balancing acts, and the elastic Miss Minnie Darlin. The club hosts nights for both drag queens and kings and throws parties to celebrate every holiday from Halloween to Valentine's Day. They throw glow and foam parties and will soon be having goth and steampunk nights, according to Brisson.
"Inferno is an experience, it's not just a night out," he says. "You can dance, you can play games, you can watch a show. We're covering every base we can and we make improvements every week."
On nights with live entertainment there is a cover, but according to Sanchez, every dollar goes to the performers. The partners work to take care of their staff as well as their customers and it shows.
"We're your caretaker and your chaperone when you walk through that door," says Brisson, who is known to drive customers home if they've had a little too much to drink.
"We want this bar to be a place where people can come be themselves and feel safe and feel happy and create friendships and relationships," says Sanchez.
Taking care of others is important to both Sanchez and Brisson, and they like to have fun while they're doing it. Recently they implemented a tradition at Inferno to help a local victim of tragedy. At the Weekly Inferno Crap Auction they'll be selling leftover, unique, and otherwise interesting items and sending the money to Sharon Watson, the 37-year-old Taylor mother whose daughter was shot and killed Dec. 3 in the Taylor Sportsplex parking lot.