ANN ARBOR – After the closing of Common Language Bookstore at the end of 2018, owners Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, who also own the adjacent Aut Bar, said they were ready to move on.
"Martin and I have been doing this a long time and retirement is in our sight line," Orr told us in November.
After decades helping transform Braun Court in Kerrytown into an LGBTQ destination, the question many community members began to ask was: Will Braun Court maintain its identity after they retire?
Last week, it was announced that BarStar Group purchased the buildings that house Aut Bar, Common Language Bookstore, the Jim Toy Community Center and Spiral Tattoo. BarStar Group also owns several establishments in town, including Babs' Underground, Nightcap and Lo-Fi.
We reached out to the president of the group, Micah Bartelme, who answered the following questions about their plans for Aut Bar via email.
How long was this in the works?
We've been working on it for a few months now -- only the real estate has closed. License transfer for the Aut Bar business will still be a while. We expect to begin operating as soon as the transfer is complete with the state. For the time being, Martin and Keith are still operating the business.
What are your plans with Aut Bar’s space?
We plan on continuing to operate Aut Bar as an LGBTQ establishment and continue the community involvement and sponsorships that Martin and Keith have devoted so much time and energy to building. We plan on upgrading systems and work areas, as well as giving the building some much needed TLC and a full cosmetic remodel. We'll be assessing opportunities for expanded hours and entertainment programming, and evaluating menu adjustments and adding exciting new items and products.
How are you planning to honor its history?
We are excited to continue and further the legacy of inclusion and tolerance that Martin and Keith have fostered in Braun Court. As Martin and Keith have for the past 30+ years, we will welcome anybody and everybody through our doors, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual identity. We plan on continuing to sponsor the AAFF Out Night, Ann Arbor Pride, Jim Toy Center fundraising efforts and other community investments that Aut Bar has been a part of.
Have you been meeting with members of the Braun Court community? What’s their response been?
I've spoken via email with several neighbors including Trillium Real Estate and the Jim Toy Center, as well as a number of the staff at Aut Bar. I'll be addressing the staff in full at an official meeting this Monday. Everyone I've spoken with has been very excited about the future of Braun Court, and very happy to know that Aut Bar is remaining Aut Bar -- just an improved and re-energized version. It's clear to us how much the community cares about this space, and we intend to do it full justice!
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