Kalamazoo man opens only Black-owned bar in downtown named after slave turned renowned bartender

Abu Mubarik June 27, 2022
Construction ongoing at the future site of Dabney & Co. Photo credit: MLive/Daniel May

The first Black-owned and operated cocktail lounge in Kalamazoo will be opened by the end of summer courtesy of entrepreneur Daniel J May. The launch of the cocktail lounge was announced following a massive crowd to Kalamazoo as part of the Juneteenth celebrations.

The venture is located on N Rose St and W Kalamazoo Ave, the heart of the Kalamazoo, and serves “fresh hand-crafted beverages and savoury, classic soul foods with a unique spin served as small plates,” as reported by WWMT.

According to May, his latest business honors Black mixologists and service staff, “Liberation Through Spirits.” While the business seeks to pay homage to the black liberation struggle, it is also open to everyone.

“The diverse community that makes up Kalamazoo and the good, honest souls I’ve met in the last 13 years of living here assure me this is the perfect city to launch an experience,” May told WWMT.

Through his venture, May is hoping to keep the richness of black history alive. For instance, the name of his business, Dabney & Co., pays tribute to former slave John Dabney, who became a renowned Black bartender.

“John Dabney was an enslaved individual who was known for his take on the Mint Julep,” May told NowKalamazoo. “His owner at the time lent him out to the local hotels and restaurants. During that time period, the only money that you could keep was tip money. He worked his way up from the kitchen to the bar and made so much money off of his take on cocktails and everything else that he was able to buy his freedom and that of his wife. After that, he became a caterer and chef and owned his own restaurants.”

According to May, he feels excited about the reception his business has received from the community so far.

“What feels most satisfying is the excitement growing within the community for this project,” said May. “As I go through the process of establishing the business each time I share this story, my story, the genuine support grows just as great as the eagerness.”

People who enjoy cocktails and music will “experience what we have, see the culture, see the offerings, but also respect us as a well-run establishment,” he adds.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 27, 2022


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates