Members-only Carbon Athletic Club celebrates 75 years with neighborhood party
It's one of the city's longest-standing bars, but it's still a mystery to many who have never been inside the Carbon Athletic Club.
It started as a social club for Hungarian and Polish immigrants more than 100 years ago. In 1947, its clubhouse opened in the Carbon Works neighborhood of south southwest Detroit, near Delray.
Today, anyone can visit and sit down for a cold one so long as they are with a current member, and anyone can become member for a small yearly fee of $30 (plus a $20 processing fee for the first year).
Saturday, the Carbon A.C. will host 75th anniversary bash and fundraiser starting at 2 p.m. Detroit musicians will perform at the all-day bash, including songwriters Don Duprie, Alison Lewis, Danny Kroha, Tony Paris & the Sugarburn, John Freeman and more.
Drinks will flow, and food is provided by the Delray B.B.Q. food truck. The indoor and outdoor party is cash only and nonmembers will be asked to pay $10 for a temporary membership. That money can go toward their yearly membership if they choose to join.
So why a private club? It's part of the story of the bar, which can be seen as a destination for anyone interested in Detroit history or sports history. Current secretary MaryBeth Beaudry said the membership pool includes all kinds of people.
"At the start of the club it was all locals, and then over the course of many years it's turned into a lot of people from Downriver, people from Sterling Heights ... most of them are within an 11 mile radius," she said. "But we even have people who mail in their checks for yearly membership from Florida and Colorado; they're going to remain loyal."
In order for the club to continue another 75 years, it will need to keep getting new members, however, and Beaudry said she's seeing that happen.
"Lately we've been seeing a lot of young people in here. We've been throwing these parties that are bringing new faces in and people are reaching out now that we're on social media because for a longtime we weren't," she said. "We are getting people reaching out saying my grandpa was a member so I'd love to become a member now, and they're bringing all their friends in.
"So the new members that we've been having, they're really kind of stepping up and it's kind of the changing of the guard, which is pretty cool."
The train track-adjacent bar itself has original Terrazzo floors, dim lighting and serves beers that appeal to grandpas and hipsters alike, such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Black Label and Miller High Life. Members enjoy shot-and-a-beer specials for $4.
Beaudry said she spent the pandemic unearthing some of the team photos, trophies and other relics from the Carbon A.C.'s strorage that were put away in the 1980s during an effort to modernize. She polished them up and the mid-20th century artifacts are now proudly on display.
The Carbon Athletic Club is located at 111 Gates in Detroit. Follow on social media at facebook.com/CarbonAthleticClub or Instagram @carbon_athletic_club for more information.