Everything You Need to Know About the New Queer Bar Coming to Ann Arbor

Uplift co-founder Saharsh Hajela on the dedicated LGBTQ+ space, set to open in late summer

Sarah Bricker Hunt

The rumors are true — there’s a new queer bar coming to Ann Arbor later this year, and Pride Source sat down with co-founder Saharsh Hajela to get the why, where, what, how and, most importantly, to find out when we can visit Uplift

Since the legendary \aut\ Bar closed in 2020, Ann Arbor has lacked a dedicated queer bar, though spaces like North Star Lounge, queer-owned Necto and Live Nightclub have been intentional about dedicating calendar space to queer events. Queer clubgoers have long flocked to Necto’s weekly Pride nights on Fridays and North Star offers a weekly LGBTQ+ Night on Thursdays with open mics, drag performances, musical acts and more. Hajela has worked with Live Nightclub for the past few years producing drag shows and brunches and other queer-affirming events. “They are — and have been for a long time — a phenomenal ally space for queer folks,” he said. He noted that his work with Live and other bars and clubs has helped to inform the vision he and his business partner, who wishes to remain anonymous until closer to the official opening, have for Uplift.

Still, as appreciative as many in the local queer community have been to have a place to go that feels welcoming, Hajela says there’s a difference between being a guest and having a home. Uplift will fill a unique gap in Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas.

Uplift will be located at 210 First Street in Ann Arbor. Photo: Saharsh Hajela
Uplift will be located at 210 First Street in Ann Arbor. Photo: Saharsh Hajela

What can we expect from Uplift?

The new space will be multi-functional as a bar, dining and event space, all tailored toward the LGBTQ+ community. Hajela said Uplift will partner with Circ Bar to provide hot food options.

Hajela hinted at a wide range of unique queer events we can expect — he can’t make promises yet as the team is still hashing out what will work best, but it sounds like the veteran queer event planner is paying special attention to the event aspect. “Uplift is going to be a canvas for all kinds of events we’re going to hold,” he told Pride Source. “We want to allow all different types of people to have all different types of times here.”

Outside special events, Hajela said the intended vibe is a traditional neighborhood bar where patrons can grab a beer or a mocktail with a friend as well as a festive late night atmosphere. “After work, you can head over and have a great conversation in a warm, inviting place, but on weekends, when you’re looking for a place to go out late at night without having to drive outside the city, we can provide that, too,” he said. “The space will be really adaptable.” 

Uplift will be intentionally inclusive for people who don’t drink alcohol. “We’re not going to ignore the growing need for mocktails,” he said. “Folks who are looking for a tasty drink beyond Sprite in a can will absolutely have options.” 

Why did the owners decide to launch a new queer bar in Ann Arbor?

“I think it's pretty common and a shared experience to walk into a space and see someone glance over at you or present a reaction in a certain way and think, ‘OK. I've seen that look before; I know how this is going to go. It's time to put my guard up. It's time to start to mask… It's time to start considering leaving,’” Hajela said. “And Ann Arbor is certainly a queer-friendly place — there are people doing great work to create queer-inclusive spaces. But we feel there’s a tangible difference between feeling like a guest in a space and feeling like you’re home. It’s a place where queer people can feel celebrated and connected and have a great time, but not just once a month or every few weeks — every single day. That’s really the driving force behind Uplift.” 

Hajela notes that for many people in surrounding areas, Ann Arbor can provide a haven from less accepting areas, pointing out that less than an hour from Ann Arbor, flying a Pride Flag outside city hall has been banned. “Our existence is political, and we feel strongly that there are thousands of people in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area who are seeking community — seeking space where they don’t have to explain themselves or justify their existence, a place that prioritizes them. That’s what Uplift aims to be.” 

How is the space coming along?

Hajela and his silent partner have begun working on the space, and Uplift launched its social media presence recently (follow Uplift on Facebook and Instagram @uplifta2). You can also join Uplift’s mailing list and watch for updates at Hajela invites the community to participate in upcoming polls on social media to help shape what kinds of events Uplift will offer and to check out photos as they reach various milestones heading toward the grand opening. 

Where will Uplift be?

Uplift will be located at 210 S. First Street in downtown Ann Arbor on the main floor, below Circ Bar and above Rabbit Hole

When will the doors open?

We still have a few months to go. Hajela expects to welcome Uplift’s first patrons toward the end of the summer if all goes well. 


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