By ANDREA POTEET
Hotel rooms were booked. Radio advertisements had aired, and guests from neighboring states were set to attend a highly-anticipated event at Jackson’s only gay and lesbian bar last week.
But the event, which was for the Michigan Gay Rodeo Association, was cancelled two weeks before its scheduled date of Jan. 15 when Club Detour unexpectedly closed its doors after six months in business.
Bar manager Frank Hill, who organized the event, said he had no idea the bar was closing until owner Nancy Minix showed up at his door to ask for his set of keys two days after a well-attended New Year’s Eve party.
“There was no warning, nothing,” Hill said.
Minix said she revamped the club from its original incarnation as a sports bar in July 2010 to meet the needs of the area’s gay and lesbian community, but had to close the club when customer support and dollars stopped pouring in.
“The opening night was fantastic,” Minix said. “We made a lot of money. But from that day forward it just tumbled down to almost nothing.”
Despite earlier opening hours, ever-changing drink and food specials and entertainment ranging from karaoke to drag shows, Minix said she was unable to bring in more than $200 many Friday nights.
“People just didn’t support it,” she said. “They wanted to come in and just hang out, they didn’t want to spend money.”
Minix said many of the club’s initial guests were from larger cities like Jackson and Grand Rapids, but when the novelty of the new club wore off, they moved on to clubs in those cities. She said in the end, Jackson’s openly-gay population was too small to support a gay club.
Minix reopened the club under its original name, B-One Bar, Jan. 13. She said turnout has greatly increased under the new business model. A few of Club Detour’s clients still come in, but Minix said she does not intend to host any events for them for fear of scaring away her new customer base.
In protest, Hill and other former customers have organized a boycott of B-One and a topless bar Minix also owns, and they are advertising a “bar invasion,” on the club’s still-operational Facebook page. They plan to flood competing bars with former Club Detour patrons to create makeshift gay bars.
“A lot of people are very angry,” Hill said. “We just felt that what they did to the community was wrong.”
Hill said money was always a problem during his time at the club. As bar manager, he often had to pay kitchen staff out of his own pocket or pay them less than $20 for an entire day’s work. But he said he thinks the club failed because Minix lost interest in running it after it began struggling.
“I called her every day and told her what the totals were,” Hill said. “That’s all she had to do with the bar. I don’t personally think she ever wanted it to work.”
James Warner, who attended the club nearly every week, said that many of the club’s regulars were fed up by insufficient and incorrect advertizing for the club.
“A big gripe that a lot of people had was a huge lack of advertising, and what advertising there was, it was incorrect,” he said. “Botched times for drag performances, and incorrect days for performances. It seemed just like a joke to the owner.”
Warner said there were nights when the bar was at capacity and other nights when it was nearly empty.
“It’s a shame that people refused to come out and support Detour, but ultimately, it wasn’t something that a lot of people knew about,” he said. “So I can understand why no one came out.”
Minix said the move was purely a business decision. She said she was outvoted in the decision to close the club by her husband, Kris, and father-in-law, Larry, who are her business partners.
“I fought hard to keep it open, she said. “I got beat out. But it’s not personal, it’s business.”
She said she is sorry to hear about a planned boycott of her businesses, but that she welcomes all former Club Detour patrons to her bars.
“I don’t care what they are – gay, black, green purple or orange,” Minix said. “They are more than welcome to come down to any of my clubs and I’ll welcome them with open arms.”