Tom's Tavern, one of the oldest bars in Detroit, looks every one of its 86 years.
Sad news for fans of one of the west side's most unusual drinking spots: On Saturday night, thieves used a truck to smash in the back wall of Tom's Tavern, doing a lot of damage to the bar the very week it prepares for its annual Babe Ruth celebration.
The bar, if you haven't heard of it, is one of the oldest continuously operating taverns in the city. Founder Tom Lucas bought the building in 1928, back when Prohibition was the law of the land, and when Seven Mile was still a dirt road. An astonishing 86 years later, Tom's survives, though it hasn't been easy. The bar has weathered failed city lighting, a half-dozen break-ins, stolen power hookups, cut gas and water lines and, several years ago, a car crash that caved in the front of the tavern and killed a woman on the sidewalk. How does it go on living? It's because the tavern's loyal patrons step into the breach whenever the bar is endangered, as volunteers and benefactors. It helps that the tavern has always had a knack for attracting interesting people, and its customers have included celebrity news anchor Bill Bonds and pizza baron Mike Ilitch, who bought materials to help rebuild after a 1979 fire.
Owner Ron Gurdjian.
But just because break-ins aren't rare doesn't mean this particular break-in isn't a serious problem. Owner and bottle-washer Ron Gurdjian posted a message to the bar's Facebook page, stating, "The backdoor was repeatedly bludgeoned by the back of a pickup truck. The back wall of our sturdy building finally caved in. The pipes are broken in the kitchen and ladies' room. The place was trashed. Gone are the usual suspects of beer and whiskey." The bar was also ransacked in what Gurdjian and others presume was a search for cash.
But Gurdjian declares that, no matter what, the bar's storied Babe Ruth Party will go on, as scheduled, Feb. 1. Each year, the bar is decked out with streamers, Ruth-related quotes, and plenty of images of the Bambino (which prompted one wag to remark, "I never saw so many babes in one bar!") If you've never been to Tom's, this is definitely the night to go — and given the expense of patching up this latest break-in, it sounds like they could use any extra business.
Tom's Tavern is at 10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-862-9768.