“We saw kind of a gap in the Ann Arbor bar scene … we felt like we could bring something new and different,” says Micah Bartelme, owner of the new Nightcap Ann Arbor. The bar, on Main near Liberty in the former Elmo’s Main Street T-Shirts, hides behind an unmarked window and heavy velvet curtains. Bartelme also owns the similarly inconspicuous Babs’ Underground lounge and Rush nightclub.
Bartelme says he and his longtime friend and general manager, Andy Garris, had a vision for a bar that was “a bit more of a modern take … There’s new equipment, techniques, and crazy stuff you can do with them.” That equipment includes a centrifuge to purify and infuse cocktails as well as a 165-pound liquid nitrogen tank that Garris uses to seal batch bottlings and “nitro-muddle,” a process of instantly freezing herbs and grinding them into a frozen dust to add to cocktails. “This was very much focused on the cocktails, focused on the technique,” says Bartelme.
Synecdoche design studio created a look that is both modern and lush. Dark blue velvet U-shaped booths are lit up by patterns created by a partially grated ceiling, and the tiles in front of the gender-neutral bathrooms spell out “you look good.”
Nightcap was the subject of some wrath when the building’s landlord shut down the Friday night swing dance class held upstairs in the Phoenix Center. Bartelme says the large crowd and exuberant style of dance had been shaking the whole building. He brought it to the attention of the landlord, and “from there that conversation left our control.” He had meant only to “see what we could do” about the problem, but suddenly the Ann Arbor Swing Dance Association was told it was out, and Nightcap’s Facebook page had fifteen one-star reviews in its opening week–“all of them swing dancers,” he says.
Bartelme, who grew up in Ann Arbor, says most of the misunderstandings got sorted out in a meeting between the different stakeholders, including dance groups, and things seem to have settled down. Friday Night Swing moved to the Campus Chapel on Washtenaw Ct., while all other weekly dance groups remain at the Phoenix Center. Bartelme says the noise was really only a problem from the swing Group. “We certainly didn’t want them to feel bad–we just don’t want our ceiling to sound like it’s about to fall down on our guests!”
Nightcap Ann Arbor, 220 S. Main, 369-6070. Tue.-Sun. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Closed Mon. facebook.com/nightcapa2