Home to the main campus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor has long been one of the most progressive and diverse communities in the state. The city of about 114,000 has just one gay bar officially, but many other nightspots, restaurants, cafes, and coffeehouses - especially around the downtown area and University of Michigan campus - draw a mix of folks from all walks of life. Pretty much anywhere in town, LGBT patrons receive a warm welcome.
Set along a peaceful, attraction pedestrian lane in Ann Arbor's hip and historic Kerrytown neighborhood, just around the corner from famed Zingerman's Deli and the excellent farmers market, Aut Bar (315 Braun Court, 734-994-3677) is the definitive gay nightlife and social hub for this progressive college town that's home to University of Michigan, whose campus is within walking distance. Aut Bar is right beside the GLBT bookstore and gift shop, Common Language - both are owned by the same team, which has long fostered a sense of community in what many consider one of the most gay-friendly college communities in the country.
Common Language now ranks among just a handful of LGBT book retailers in the world.
Aut Bar opened in the mid-'90s at a time when many gay bars in Michigan were dark, hidden behind blank exteriors in industrial or desolate neighborhoods, and driven more on cruising than community. Owners (and founders) Keith Orr and Martin Contreras opted for a fresh new GLBT nightlife formula: an attractive and central location, a clean and well-lighted space, and an establishment that's as much a gay cafe and restaurant as it is a nightspot. You'll find attractive, well-lighted bars on both floors, and a bistro-style restaurant serving tasty, well-prepared comfort food - hummus wraps, chipotle-potato quesadillas, Cajun cheeseburgers, and so on (plenty of veggie options are served).
There's a fun happy hour at Aut Bar on weekdays from 4 until 6, a popular weekend brunch, and free pool on Wednesday nights. The crowd is very mixed in gender and age, catering to plenty of students and faculty from nearby University of Michigan, but also a good number of GLBT folks who live in Ann Arbor as well as metro Detroit, which is less than an hour away. One thing you can always count on here is friendly, welcoming service - it's a great spot to meet locals and also an excellent resource for learning more about the Ann Arbor gay scene.