Jamie D'Angelo knew he wanted to own a bar, but the circumstances had to be just right. He wanted something small that was close to home, a bar with food service, and the ability to host live music and entertainment. So when he noticed New Way Bar, a Ferndale staple, had been on the market for awhile, he bargained his way into bar ownership.
A couple years later, New Way has settled into a new groove. D'Angelo updated the sound system, got a digital lighting system, added tap handles, and built a (dog-friendly) patio out front. The place is still shrouded in music memorabilia, from a tiny banjo to autographed guitars to a vintage recording system to a neon light that beckons for applause. He didn't reinvent the wheel — that wasn't necessary — but gave the place enough of an upgrade that there's a sense of renewal.
These days the bar has a bigger selection of liquor and rotating Michigan craft drafts. D'Angelo says the taps mostly consist of seasonal brews — some stay on for a month or two, some for longer. Right now Kuhnhenn's DRIPA and Keweenaw's Widow Maker Black Ale stand next to a Perrin IPA and a selection from Arcadia Brewing Co., but they will all change with the seasons.
Another variable behind, wrapped in brown paper bags and marked with the numbers 1, 2, and 3, are mystery shots. D'Angelo came up with the gimmick to utilize an overstocked liquor or use a special one-off bottle from a distributor. For $2 a pop, customers can take a guess at what's in each, but the bottle isn't revealed until it's empty. Does that sound like a drinking challenge to you or do we just have a problem?
Live entertainment is a big draw for New Way, and their offerings are nicely varied.
"We do comedy, open mic nights, book readings, viewing parties — there's always something going on," says D'Angelo. "I wouldn't say we specialize in one type of music. We do mostly local music; occasionally we get a touring act."
Recently he added to the bar's weekly entertainment offerings, setting up a jazz night every Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. New Way's house band handles the music, but after 9 p.m. they invite anyone from the audience to join them onstage for a jam session.
Oh, and there's a skeeball machine.