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Saving Ann Arbor's Secret, Underground Speakeasy Music Venue

Johnny's Speakeasy, Ann Arbor's secret, underground speakeasy hidden in plain sight. Built in the 1870s, converted into a speakeasy in the 1920s.


Morning, Ann Arbor! I’ve lately found myself fascinated by the world of birding. My latest find: people record what birds they see around Ann Arbor and submit their results to websites like ebird.org/hotspots so the rest of us can see local bird population trends and find new area hotspots.

So, today’s newsletter is dedicated to all you data-collecting local birders. You’re the behind-the-scenes nature lovers we didn’t know we needed.


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Save The Speakeasy | Google Maps

🎵 Save the Speakeasy: For the past 30 years, Johnny Williams, a retired local special-ed teacher, has regularly hosted 50+ guests in his speakeasy-style concert venue basement off Dexter Road. As explained in an 11-minute documentary (worth the watch), Johnny’s basement was first built in the 1870s as a cold storage facility for a local apple orchard, before it was converted into a speakeasy in the 1920s during prohibition. Legend says, to better hide the speakeasy, the owners built a house on top of the cellar. Since Johnny bought the property in the 1990s, Johnny’s Speakeasy has been a staple in the Ann Arbor music scene.

Unfortunately, all that changed when a September 2022 fire devastated the home and underground venue. Now, locals are stepping up to help. As Johnny fights with his insurance agency for a better payout, the community has organized Save The Speakeasy, a benefit concert at The Ark, where all proceeds will go to rebuilding Johnny’s home and speakeasy.

Save the Speakeasy will be on Tuesday, January 9 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $25.

🥪 DiBella’s To Reopen: After a fire forced their location to close in February 2022, DiBella’s Subs (904 W. Eisenhower Parkway) is targeting a spring 2024 reopening. Originally opened in 2002, the Ann Arbor location was just the restaurant’s 4th store (DiBella’s now boasts 44 locations).

🇬🇷 KouZina on Main Closes: KouZina Greek Street Food has closed its downtown Ann Arbor restaurant (332 S. Main Street). Having been in the location since 2016, owner Bobby Laskaris cited high rent, pandemic struggles, and road closures as reasons for leaving after the lease ended. According to district court records, the closure also comes amid a legal dispute with the landlord over approximately $39,000 in unpaid rent and other dues. KouZina will continue to operate out of its Royal Oak location and cater in the Ann Arbor area.

🎨 200th Birthday Mural: In preparation for next year’s bicentennial celebrations, Ann Arbor is offering a $25,000 contract to a local artist to create murals on the basketball courts at Bicentennial Park (formerly Southeast Area Park) and Leslie Park next summer. The murals should reflect the city's past, present, and future, and include the A200 bicentennial logo. Three finalists will be chosen for public voting, with the winner announced in May.


2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey | FDA

🚭 Flavored Tobacco Ban: To reduce youth tobacco use in the state, a proposed bill package in the Michigan Senate would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (vapes) and menthol cigarettes. The advocacy groups argue that by masking the harsh taste of tobacco, e-cigarettes use flavors to appeal to young people.

📉 Michigan GOP Financial Crisis: According to a report by GOP activist Warren Carpenter, the Michigan Republican Party is on the verge of bankruptcy under Chair Kristina Karamo's leadership. According to court documents, most party bank accounts are empty, and the financial situation is the worst in the party's history. The party is accused of mismanaging funds, including violating federal campaign finance law by improperly funneling revenue and spending through its federal PAC. The report also claims a significant financial loss from events like the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference and a failed fundraiser. The situation has sparked internal conflicts, with efforts to oust Karamo from her role.

🎓 New Michigan State President: MSU has appointed Kevin Guskiewicz, current Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as its new president, effective March 4, 2024. Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist and concussion researcher, has been with UNC-Chapel Hill since 1995 and served as its chancellor since February 2019. The MSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted for his appointment, offering a five-year contract with a base salary of $975,000 plus additional benefits. Guskiewicz is the fifth president since Lou Anna K. Simon's 2018 resignation over handling the Larry Nassar scandal. A 3-minute introduction video from MSU.


2116 Champagne Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

3 Bed | 1 Bath | 864 Sqft | $190,000

1905 Steere Pl, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

3 Bed | 2 Bath | 1,730 Sqft | $375,000

1724 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

3 Bed | 2 Bath | 1,545 Sqft | $450,000


Humane Society of Huron Valley

Derby | 1 year | Border Collie

Humane Society of Huron Valley

Professor Meow Fluffinstein Peanutbutter | 2 years | Domestic Longhair
That's all for now! Have a great week in Tree Town!
- Andrew

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P. P. S. - A video of the Ann Arbor Fire Department putting out a vehicle fire behind Rackham Auditorium.

P. P. P. S - A cool Instagram reel from @AnnArbor about five new local businesses