PICS: The Old Honest?John’s Off Jefferson Is Being Demolished

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That very well may be remnants of the old Honest?Johns awning. Daily Detroit Photo.

Most people seem to only remember Honest?John’s at their current Midtown location on Selden near Cass. But the bar has a long history, and before 2002 was located just off of Jefferson by the Belle Isle Bridge.

The place still is a Detroit classic (now owned by Sugar House owner Dave Kwiatkowski and his brother), but the old location on Field Street, across from Gabriel Richard Park, had a unique Detroit-y quality I can’t quite place when headed by John Thompson. The best description I could find was “a place where the beers and the truth are served cold and straightforward.”

Honest?John's being demolished. Daily Detroit photo.
Honest?John’s being demolished. Daily Detroit photo.

It was where to go after seeing grandma at some family function in Indian Village, because as much as you love them to death, sometimes family politics makes you need a drink. The welcome there was always gruff and warm all at the same time.

The old Honest?John's on Field. Daily Detroit photo.
The old Honest?John’s on Field. Daily Detroit photo.

When taking the pictures here and asking around of the people in the immediate area or on the demo crew, no one around remembered the old spot, but did share that someone decided to make the building a drive-thru of sorts by plowing into it with their vehicle about 10 days ago. The damage was great enough that the building, built in 1923, had to come down.

Demo underway. Daily Detroit photo.
Demo underway. Daily Detroit photo.

No plans were shared by the folks on site. The current owner of the property isn’t listed on Loveland either, just “Taxpayer.”

Anyone else remember the old joint?

7 comments
  • Was my neighborhood watering hole for many years. Wrapped toys for tots. Per John – “No! You cannot drink a beer while wrapping toys! Those kids don’t need their Christmas presents smelling like booze!” Good times. Never liked the joint on Seldon as well. Miss it to this day!

  • Used to go there all the time in early 80s with friends. You had to order a beer because all other drinks contained a bug in it! Would stop first to eat at the Acapulco for dinner, great Mexican food on E. Jefferson near Honest Johns! No glitz, no glamour places, just fun people and conversation! Sad to see it all go!

  • Everyone in Indian Village went to Honest John’s despite John Thompson’s misogyny and the back room drug dealing. Can’t believe you couldn’t find anyone who remembered the place. How old are you….twelve? Do you know how to google? The place was constantly in the news. John was a major publicity hound and the media ate up his events including a wintertime dip in the Detroit River. PersonallyI loved the tough as nails bartender with the bright red hair and lipstick that seeped up to her nostrils. Also the adjacent Acapulco restaurant where we spend many an evening solving the problems of the world and workplace over pitchers of margaritas and platters of botanas. Great memories.

  • Comment:Oh yeah, I remember the old joint well. Would stop after cavorting downtown then heading home. Beer was always cold, prices were affordable. Had a great jukebox, too.

  • Spent some time honing my billiards skills there… I’m not very good but that place was a helluva lots of fun!

  • Loved Honest John’s on Field. John once sent me a Christmas card with his then-current mugshot on it. Misogynyst is a good word for John, No racist or sexist or classist attitudes, just an equal opportunity disdainer of humanity. He once got mad at a lawyer friend of mine and tried to run him over in the parking lot across the street after kicking him out of the bar for some reason that could only be understood in John’s mind. Great place. It’s astounding you didn’t come across anyone who remembered it.

  • Many many years of doing the dip buying the presents and wrapping the presents. Best charity that I could find that was all hands on and a huge amount of fun. Also did many many many moon shots thanks to John Thompson. Thanks to Billy the bartender. Always a good time

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