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Beloved bar owner ‘Honest’ John Thompson has died at 66

The bar he owned is a Detroit institution

DETROIT – The bar he owned is a Detroit institution.

“Honest” John Thompson, the former owner of Honest John’s in Detroit has died at the age of 66 from congestive heart failure.

Thompson leaves behind a legacy that’s a whole lot bigger than just a bar.

“He was the most complicated simple man in the world,” relative Mike Kiewicz said.

Thompson’s family spoke to Local 4 from Florida, where the 66-year-old spent the last year of his storied life.

“Right now I’m just devastated,” Laurie Kiewicz said.

Kiewicz took care of Thompson up until his final days.

“The man drove me absolutely bonkers and crazy. And, you know, but I just loved him to pieces,” Laurie Kiewicz said.

Thompson was born in Detroit and grew up in Cass Corridor. He opened the bar’s original location on Field Street, near Belle Isle more than 30 years ago. The bar quickly developed a cult following.

“The bar was great because I could be sitting there with a homeless person on my left and the CEO of GM on my right and the three of us could sit there and talk over drinks,” Mike Kiewicz said. “Like we had known each other for 20 years. And it was that kind of a place and it was really special.”

Thompson moved the bar to Midtown in 2002, long before the area became one of the city’s hottest zip codes. Like many people, Thompson had his share of struggles, professionally and personally.

“He alienated a lot of people, because, you know, he was -- he was a complicated man and that was the complicated part of him,” Mike Kiewicz said. “He had a lot of demons that he fought, but he had, he had a heart of gold.”

While he sold Honest John’s a few years ago, he leaves behind a complicated legacy and the landmark institution named after him.

The family held a small service in Florida. A memorial in Detroit is planned in the coming weeks.

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