John Burens, a former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court bailiff, has been working since spring to transform the Bruno Casiano Gallery (5304 Detroit Rd.) building into an attractive and distinctive neighborhood bar. He’s working with Jonathan Sin-Jin Satayathum and Matt Clark, a pair of skilled designers and builders who have put their creative stamps on the interiors of Spotted Owl, Greenhouse Tavern, Fat Cats and Giant in Chicago, among others.
Burens is very cognizant of the rapidly changing community outside his front door, and he hopes to fashion a bar that welcomes neighbors old and new.
“I hope to reclaim the neighborhood bar, which has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially when you have a neighborhood that’s kind of being built up,” he says. “I’m trying to get back to the true meaning of the neighborhood bar.”
Burens says that he’s a fan of both the humble corner bar and the fancy cocktail lounge, but sometimes he wishes the two could be married as one.
“The kind of place where you can get both a Pabst and a French 75 without having to explain to the bartender how to make it,” he says. “Just a good, comfortable place to sit and have a drink.”
The 1,800-square-foot tavern is anchored by a beefy three-sided bar, the bartop of which is constructed of untreated old-growth fir salvaged from a turn-of-the-century home. A colorful backbar is a collage of hand-painted windows in weathered frames. High-top tables are fixed in place thanks to industrial steel channel legs.
“We wanted to make something with clean lines but not overly industrial,” Clark explains of the dark, masculine interior.
The 50-seat bar will have a small kitchen that turns out straightforward but high-quality snacks like dips and flatbread pizzas. There will be four draft beers – one of which will be Pabst – and a cocktail list.
Burens hopes to open the doors of Tributary by Saint Patrick's Day.
“I love this neighborhood,” Burens, says. “My mom grew up in this neighborhood. We would always drive down this road all the way from Lakewood to downtown. That’s also the basis of the name, in addition to the nod to the Cuyahoga, this street is a tributary into the city.”
A planned Detroit Avenue Streetscape project, to be completed by 2019, will extend to W. 52nd Street and include public art, landscaping and widened sidewalks and pedestrian walkways.
For evidence that the communities of Detroit Shoreway and Ohio City are inching toward inevitable unification at the hands of development, one need only look at Tributary. This cocktail bar is currently taking shape at W. 54th and Detroit, in a squat brick building that sits near the border of those two neighborhoods.