Support for Aut Bar pours in after vandals strike

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Police are still looking for suspects who vandalized the Aut Bar in Ann Arbor Friday an owner said Saturday he doubts the criminal or criminals will be caught. 

But if there is a bright spot to the vandalism it's that the community has been stepping up with thousands of dollars in contributions to a GoFundMe campaign for the bar. 

Vandals tore down flags, smashed planters and more at the Aut Bar early Friday.

A cleaning crew who arrived Friday morning notified owners of the mess. The outdoor, brick patio was attacked, ripping down streamers and wires holding lights, and pulled down the fascia board, which damaged the gutters. They also removed and ripped the LGBTQ rainbow flag, owners said.

Keith Orr, co-owner of the Aut Bar, said the attack must have happened between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday. 

"On Thursday's, we close at 2 a.m. Bartenders cleaned up pretty quickly and got out by 3 a.m. and then cleaning crews found it when they arrived around 6 a.m." Orr said. "Police came, but we're really not expecting much since there were no pictures taken of the criminals."

The damage to the Aut Bar was relatively minor, but the community has responded with thousands of dollars in pledged donations.

The damage cost came out to about $300, but the community quickly gathered to raise money to fix the patio. As of Saturday morning, the GoFundMe has raised more than $8,000 in 18 hours. Orr said he has plans to donate the rest of the proceeds to LGBTQ organizations.

"It's really not much damage, but people kept saying they wanted to donate and wanted to help, so we made the goal $2,000 thinking we could give some back to the community," Orr said. "We plan on taking the repair costs and donating to the Jim Toy Community Center (a local LGBTQ community allyship) and a nearby LGBT bookstore that hasn't been doing so well."

The Aut Bar has served the community for 22 years and Orr said they have never had an incident like this. 

"We've had some graffiti in the past, just some simple tagging. Nothing outright attacking the gay community or anonymous like this," Orr said. 

Orr co-owns the bar with his husband Martin Contreras. They have been together for 30 years and were one of the 300 same-sex couples that married in the 24-hour window on March 22.

The Aut Bar is known for their Saturday and Sunday brunches on their award-winning patio and their mission. They chose a location in Braun Court because the court is a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

"The mission of our bar is to provide a safe space and atmosphere and the community showed they still believe we can do that," Orr said.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_