Posted by: Kath Usitalo | December 8, 2010

Nick and Nora and Cliff Bell’s

The ceiling at Cliff Bell's is made of curved wood

Maybe it’s because I watched the 1934 classic “The Thin Man” over the weekend, but Cliff Bell’s has been on my mind. The classy club on Detroit’s Park Avenue (which once upon a time lived up to its highfalutin name) is the kind of place I’d expect to find Nick and Nora Charles downing a steady stream of cocktails.

John Clifford Bell, a serial speakeasy owner during Prohibition, opened the Art Deco nightclub in 1935 and ran it until he retired in 1958.

Cliff Bell designed the small tete-a-tete tables that bump out from the bar

After his long and storied ownership Cliff Bell’s went through several identities until it was abandoned in 1985.

A trio of new owners bought the piece of Detroit history in 2005 and began an extensive and loving restoration that was more of an interpretation of the original space based on photos of the old club. Wood prevails throughout the two long rooms with a double bar between them. Love the curved wooden ceiling.

We stopped by for a drink a while ago—before Michigan banned tobacco in public places—and sat at one of Cliff Bell’s innovations: a small table that juts out from the bar so that companions can look at each other while sipping and smoking.

There’s entertainment every night, often with no cover. A fave of mine, Hot Club of Detroit, performs this weekend ($15 cover).

Check out the Cliff Bell’s website for photos of the original joint and the entertainment schedule, and stop by for a taste of old Detroit, live jazz, a bite to eat (the Happy Hour, Dinner and Brunch menus get rave reviews), and an adult beverage.

Nick and Nora tuxes and cocktail gowns are welcome, but not required.

(NOTE: Cliff Bell’s is closed Mondays, some holidays, and for the occasional private event)

Cliff Bell's is a classic piece of old Detroit



  1. So, when are we going?

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