Willow, Detroit’s first Black-owned craft cocktail bar, opens downtown

Inside Willow, a new speakeasy in downtown Detroit, soft lights cast a warm glow against dark walls. There’s a moodiness to the space, which balances home furnishings with touches of luxe. Gilded accents show up in picture frames and table lamps, while a back seating area nods to what I imagine the living room of a Boston Edison mansion might have looked like in the 1970s — a wingback loveseat in a black and white houndstooth print is framed with drawn curtains and a coffee table sits on a black area rug with a gold motif border.

Co-owners Ron Scott, JD Simpson and Roger Yopp opened Willow in May to build upon the foundation laid by SavannahBlue, the restaurant that the team founded in 2016. Tucked away beneath the upscale soul food restaurant, Willow is SavannahBlue’s hideaway and plays up a mystifying person.

To enter the cocktail bar, you’ll have to find the gold door at the back alleyway. The Ring doorbell fixed to the brick façade will alert someone of your arrival and a stylish gentleman named Charles will welcome you in. You’ll walk through floor-to-ceiling curtains for a dramatic reveal.

The golden door entrance of Willow in the alley behind SavannahBlue in Detroit on Thursday, June 23, 2022.

En route to your table, you’ll admire sepia photographs of Motown legends that line the walls. You’ll gasp at the crown jewel of the space, the breathtaking replica of a willow tree planted at the bar. Expansive branches wrapped in delicate string lights cascade over bar stools as a wink to the name of the bar and an homage to the weeping willow’s prominence in Southern cities like Savannah, Georgia.

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